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Publishing for All
Democratizing contentpublication on the Internet

Context: Maintaining popular websites like Yahoo requires tremendous investment in bandwidth and powerful Web servers – investment that individual Internet users and small organizations can’t afford. If a small site’s content becomes extremely popular (as happens when a website like Slashdot links to it), its servers can become so overloaded that they can’t handle all the requests they receive. The power to publish popular content to large numbers of people on the Internet is thus restricted to large companies. A group of computer scientists from New York University recently put forward a system called Coral to remedy that situation.

Methods and Results: Coral allows one computer’s burden to be shouldered by many volunteers. In geek-speak, it is a decentralized and self-organizing peer-to-peer Web content distribution network. Users across the Internet volunteer their computers to collectively replicate and store the contents of popular websites. Internet surfers and Web page administrators can access or link to a website through Coral by adding “” to its URL. A novel indexing technique allows Coral to quickly locate and retrieve the requested content. By distributing content so widely, Coral avoids high loads on both the original Web server and on the volunteer computers. A user is thus able to immediately access popular Web pages through the Coral network, even if the original Web server is reeling under heavy traffi c.

Why it matters: Coral offers the common Internet user large-scale publishing power. The new system distributes the server load across many nodes on the Internet and can easily handle any sudden spikes in demand for a particular website. That means users could host popular Web pages on their home computers over bandwidth-limited DSL or cable Internet connections without exceeding bandwidth or processing capabilities. Although Coral currently serves only static content and requires at least one Coral user to cache, or store, a web-site’s contents before its load spikes, the system offers the little guy a better chance of speaking to a big audience.

Source: Freedman, M., Freudenthal, E., and Mazieres, D. (2004) Democratizing content publication with Coral. Proceedings of 1st USENIX/ACM Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation.

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