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There is a somewhat disturbing report circulating regarding how CNN was able to stream video from the inauguration of Barack Obama so quickly.

Streaming video of the event was distributed around the world from several major news sources, but CNN may have raised the bar for future online events being streamed much better.

According to a post by Brian Livingston over at Windows Secrets, the reason CNN’s streaming coverage of the inauguration was so fast was due to the fact that, in order to give the video stream more speed, CNN installed a peer-to-peer (P2P) client on your computer.


What basically happened was this, when you chose to view the live stream from CNN, you saw a dialog box appear asking you to allow the installation of the Octoshape Grid Delivery enhancement for Adobe Flash Players.  Note that this dialog does not appear for their regular video, just for live streaming events.

What is the Octoshape Grid Delivery enhancement, you ask?

It is a P2P client that runs silently in the background in your computer, and when you go to a website that uses this service, your PC becomes a node that not only lets you watch the content, but also streams it for others.


By installing the Octoshape Grid Delivery module, you are basically turning your computer into a broadcast station for any website that uses this technology.  Your computer is effectively turned into a part of a P2P network.

On January 20th, the traffic was so high that the Internet Storm Center reported that the traffic on Port 8247 (the port being used by this P2P service) was thousands of times higher than usual.


If you belong to an internet service provider that caps your monthly access, or is about to start doing so (:: cough :: Comcast :: cough), all this activity would count against your monthly cap (without you even knowing about it).

Imagine getting a nice notification of overage charges or speed downgrades from your ISP because you hit your max for the month.

As Brian states:

Costs to end users. Many ISPs around the world restrict how much bandwidth users can consume. Those providers charge by the megabyte for any traffic above that level. Users who installed Octoshape’s app and served traffic upstream as well as down may get an unpleasant surprise in their next monthly bill. Octoshape anticipated this in the company’s EULA by saying, “You are responsible for any telecommunication or other connectivity charges incurred through the use of the Software.”
In addition, ISP terms of service usually prohibit customers from using their Internet connection to host a server.

Why isn’t there more of an uproar about this? My guess is that many people just aren’t aware of it, but as word gets around, I’m guessing the heat will be turned up on CNN to be more forthcoming about this in the future.

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