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Microsoft Avalanche and Bram Cohen June 21, 2005

Posted by rjdohnert in Software reviews.

Bram Cohen is the inventor and developer of the Bittorrent protocol. Seems like he knows what he is talking about which surprised me when I read this about Microsoft Avalanche. I think he is a victim of the Register and “free” press. I can see why he is angry, but in this particular situation Microsoft wasnt the aggressor. So lets see if we can work through some facts for Mr. Cohen.

First of all, I’d like to clarify that Avalanche is vaporware.
It isn’t a product which you can use or test with, it’s a bunch of
proposed algorithms. There isn’t even a fleshed out network protocol.
The ‘experiments’ they’ve done are simulations.

First off Avalanche is not Vaporware. Avalanche is a research project. No one from Microsoft or at Microsoft has said anything about Avalanche being a shipping product. This was The Register and other news sources that claim this to be a shipping product. Until you hear about it from Microsoft spokespeople or Robert Scoble, this is nothing but research. About the experiments being simulations: Mr. Cohen, over 90% of all research projects are done through simulations. I remember in 1995 I read a research paper about subplanting human extremities with biomechanical artificial limbs. It was really out there, Star Trek, Star Wars futuristic type of paper. It hasnt materialized and thats the thing with research projects, over 80% of them never take shape or even get seriously developed.

The rest of his post has to do with the technical side of it so I wont comment on them. his technical evaluation seems sound. But….

” As you’ve probably figured out by now, I think that paper is complete
garbage. Unfortunately it’s actually one of the better academic papers
on BitTorrent, because it makes some attempt, however feeble, to do an
apples to apples comparison. I’d comment on academic papers more, but
generally they’re so bad that evaluating them does little more than go
over epistemological problems with their methodology, and is honestly a
waste of time.”

I agree with him on the academic papers issue. Most of them are very bad or either very uninteresting. This one was one of the few I have ever read completely through. But I will say this about Microsoft Research, MSR is probably studying this to be a general corporate type use nothing wide scale or on the level that bittorrents on. Microsoft i dont think would develop and release technology that would be used in mass pirating of movies and software. before people start on this, I am not saying Bram Cohen developed Bittorrent to distribute illegal movies or pirated software, but a lot of people use it for that, it was not a cheap shot at anybody.


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