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Gaps in Peer Design

Abstract : This chapter focuses on the issue of the “gaps” in the peer-based design of the technical architecture of Internet-based services; although net architecture will be our primary focus, we will also consider how dynamics of motivation/incentives to participate in peer-based systems, and their attractiveness/usability, are fundamentally linked to the constraints and opportunities of different architectural designs. The chapter builds upon empirical material derived from two case studies of particular events in the development processes of decentralized systems. The first one, the Faroo peer-to-peer search engine, made the core socio-technical choice of placing users and their computing equipment at the core of the system; as a consequence, several strategies were required to remedy technical conundrums and maintain users’ enrollment in the system. The second case, the Wuala distributed file storage platform, made, at a particular point in its history, the choice of reverting to a centralized model, so as to “simplify” the technical development process and the related business model. This revealed a number of technical and social features that pioneer users were attached to, but that developers were unable to make self-sustainable in order to maintain the peer-to-peer nature of the system. Via these two case studies, the chapter shows that one of the reasons why these gaps are particularly problematic is that they are not merely ‘technical’ or ‘social’ or ‘economic,’ but a mix of the three. The lessons of these two case studies are also useful to partly explain a widely-known phenomenon related to decentralized architectures, i.e. that while user-controlled, decentralized alternatives to Internet-based services have been regularly put forward as an alternative to internet giants, their developers have mostly found it complicated to compete with proprietary market leaders.
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Contributor : Francesca Musiani Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Friday, February 19, 2021 - 9:41:12 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, February 20, 2021 - 3:30:00 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, May 20, 2021 - 6:20:45 PM

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Francesca Musiani. Gaps in Peer Design. Mathieu O’Neil, Christian Pentzold & Sophie Toupin (Eds.), The Handbook of Peer Production, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 334-346, 2021. ⟨hal-03146429⟩

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