Friday, December 3, 2010

The Leaky Cauldron

I've been grimly amused reading about the latest wleaks webhosting drama over the past few days because of the astounding lack of understanding of how distributed systems work displayed by both the media and lawmakers. Perhaps this is our fault as technologists, maybe we're not explaining things clearly enough.

I've decided to draw some pictures on virtual cocktail napkins to help.

This is (mostly) how servers and data flow on the internet used to work:
One server, lots of nodes connect. Server distributing bad stuff? Shut it down, problem solved:

But in today's world of peer-to-peer file sharing, we actually see a model that looks more like this:

Not so happy about that file being shared? Well, you can try to stop it...

...but, well, good luck with that.

The cat is out of the bag, that file ain't never coming back. It's time to move on, folks.

I think it's hard for people to conceptualize decentralized networks. But it's really important to think about things this way, because this is what the internet is today. That first model is long, long gone.


  1. Nice! Too bad these napkins can't be required reading for people, I think it would help.

  2. decentralized networks are beautiful

  3. Dude! When did you start running a web comic? Awesome!

  4. :). I should run a web comic. If only I had any artistic talent!

  5. Love the post title!