General Question

Zyx's avatar

Is there any good way to harness excess bandwidth?

Asked by Zyx (4152points) November 9th, 2010

I got to thinking about this when I was once again disgusted by social networking sites for profit. I seem to recall converting some space into webspace isn’t that hard and if enough people did this you could run social networking for free and probably a lot more efficiently.

You might look at what I’m asking about as a sort of peer2peer browsing. You could have info available only online when your computer is on, or you could join a network that juggles the relevant information. Is there a downside?

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12 Answers

CMaz's avatar

There really is no “excess” bandwidth. Just bandwidth.

You either use it all, or less then all of it. Which sort of spreads out like hot caramel within a box.

MeinTeil's avatar

Video of Bobby Flay and his ego.

Seriously, there is no “excess” bandwidth.

jrpowell's avatar

There is Diaspora which is meant to be like Facebook that is run on your own server.

Zyx's avatar

Call it pirate bandwidth if you want to alert the rich folk but hardly anyone uses all of their bandwidth all the time. I’m going to see the part of my bandwidth I don’t use as my right to vote until things start making sense again.

@johnpowell Rings a bell, though I previously thought it was just going to be another ad-riddled instant messenger. Might be worth looking into.

camertron's avatar

@ChazMaz is absolutely right – there’s no such thing as “excess” bandwidth. Often times it’s not your bandwidth cap that’s the problem anyway, it’s the remote server’s inability to serve content to you as fast as you can receive it. I would say therefore that if you aren’t receiving data as fast as your connection allows, someone else is receiving their share at the same time. That means there’s no “excess” just lying around waiting for someone to use it. For a social networking site which would likely get a lot of traffic (Fluther gets more than a million unique page views every day and we’re relatively small), you’d want to be able to serve up pages as fast and as much as possible, and that wouldn’t really be feasible if your connection relies on the amount of activity someone else just happens to not be using.

jaytkay's avatar

BitTorrent and SETI@home harness excess bandwidth.

CMaz's avatar

They don’t “harness excess bandwidth”.

They use other/others bandwidth to crunch numbers.

jaytkay's avatar

My computer and DSL line at home are idle 80–90% of most days.

That is excess bandwidth (I am using the term for both the DSL and CPU cycles).

If I installed BitTorrent and SETI@home, or joined a distributed Facebook-like application, my excess bandwidth would be harnessed.

camertron's avatar

@jaytkay I see what you’re saying, but the “excess bandwidth” you’re referring to is likely being given to someone else because you’re not using it. Also, Seti@home doesn’t use bandwidth very often, just your CPU when it’s idle. A CPU can have “excess” cycles because nobody but your computer has access to it, unlike your internet connection. Really we’re just quibbling over terminology though. To answer the OP’s original question, a good way to harness so-called excess bandwidth is to simply use it for something like Seti@home. BitTorrent won’t use your extra bandwidth – it hogs as much as it wants.

If you wanted to look into social networking using people’s “excess” bandwidth, I suppose you could have everyone host their own page on their own computer. That way, whenever someone requests your social info, they connect directly to your computer to get it. Kind of like a distributed social network. That means your computer has to be connected at all times to serve up content to people, and you’d have to be super careful with security, but it could theoretically work.

jaytkay's avatar

The original question was about bypassing commercial social networking sites. I think a distributed Facebookish application is intriguing.

The content redundantly spread over many computers, like Bittorrent. And serving HTML could work like a server farm, only the servers would be thousands of PCs in people’s homes.

Dropbox, Seti@home, Bittorrent, Amazon Web Services- I don’t think it would be more difficult than those existing cloud services.

Zyx's avatar

@jaytkay exactly, and since bittorrents work, and this would require only a fraction of the bandwidth, it should work pretty easily. You could even automatically update small amounts of profiles to avoid manual loading and still not notice it’s there. I’d keep it minimalistic because of those advantages.

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