[fc-discuss] Financial Cryptography Update: The Mojo Nation Story

iang@iang.org iang@iang.org
Wed, 12 Oct 2005 13:27:33 +0100 (BST)

((((((((( Financial Cryptography Update: The Mojo Nation Story )))))))))

                            October 12, 2005




[Guest post by Steve Schear]:

Mojo Nation was the brainchild of Jim McCoy (then formerly of Yahoo)
and Doug Barnes (then formerly of C2Net).  Their vision was a fully
distributed peer-to-peer network with a financial mechanism that
offered efficient cost recovery and discouraged the free-riding known
to P2P people as leeching (a problem that continues to plague P2P).

The most radical element of MN was its method of pricing all activities
in terms of network resources.	It was also one of the first attempts
at a P2P network using a fully distributed approach and a publishing
versus a file sharing metaphor.

Unfortunately, MN was never fully operational.	It never reached a
point of deployment that allowed many of its novel architectural and
technological assumptions, especially the mint, to be truly tested. 
It's not clear what economic lessons to draw from its operational
vision, but here are some of the reasons behind its business failure:

 * MN failed because it failed to get continued funding.  It only
received seed money from its founder, Jim McCoy.  MN was in development
before Napster but its greater complexity caused a delayed public
release.  Jim had the foresight to thoroughly investigate the legal
aspects of P2P and architecture MN to segregate tracking and file
storage and distance itself from either.  Nevertheless, Napster's
negative publicity closed the door on VC funding and development beyond
beta testing.

 * It failed because the UI never reached a point of maturity that
enabled mostly automated meta-data tags (e.g., from mp3) to be
generated from published content.  This required users to tediously
enter this data (and re-enter it when they were forced to republish,
see below).

 * It failed because software instabilities prevented its distributed
servers from accumulating and retaining enough content and becoming
stable (network effects).  This instability required constant, manual,
republishing of content by users who soon fatigued (user churn).

The most notable result from MN was Bram's Bit Torrent.  Though, as we
saw, Bram failed to heed warnings (and discussion at MN) about
protecting the trackers until the MPAA/RIAA were able to shut many
down.  Its been reported that many of these shortcomings have been
fixed but I still can't seem to get Azureus (the most popular BT
client) to work as expected with the distributed tracking.  Since the
demise of eDonkey, et al, due to the MGM vs. Grokster BT has been given
a shot at reassuming the P2P leadership mantle.  I hope it succeeds. 
Or perhaps P2P's next growth will have to wait until enough its users
discover the advantages of an anonymizing transport layers, like TOR
and I2P. 

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