Illegal file sharing in the UK has fallen dramatically, according to media and technology researchers at Music Ally.
The analyst firm published a study on Monday that showed the numbers of those who regularly file share dropped by a quarter between December 2007 and January 2009. The trend was particularly pronounced among those between 14 and 18 years of age -- in December 2007, 42 per cent were file sharing at least once per month, while, in January 2009, only 26 per cent were doing so.
At the same time, music-streaming services appear to be taking off. The researchers wrote: "The move to streaming -- eg YouTube, MySpace and Spotify -- is clear, with the research showing that many teens (65 per cent) are streaming music regularly (ie, each month)."
The study continues: "Nearly twice as many 14- to 18-year-olds (31 per cent) listen to streamed music on their computer every day compared to music fans overall (18 per cent). More fans are regularly sharing burned CDs and Bluetoothing tracks to each other than file sharing tracks."
Spotify is ad-funded, and is rapidly expanding its catalogue. The service is even name-checked in the Digital Britain report, along with Last FM, as showing that "where the system is failing to serve the needs of users, innovative business models will develop to fill the gap". Music Ally's figures appear to suggest that these new models are at least partially responsible for fighting piracy.
A move to streaming could have implications for the functioning of the Internet, however. Larry Roberts, one of the inventors of packet-switching and the Arpanet, wrote in this month's IEEE Spectrum that traditional packet-based routing is not built for streaming services.
"Unlike email and static Web pages, which can handle network hiccups, voice and video deteriorate under transmission delays as short as a few milliseconds," Roberts wrote. "And therein lies the problem with traditional IP packet routers: they can't guarantee that a YouTube clip will stream smoothly to a user's computer. They treat the video packets as loose data entities when they ought to treat them as flows."
Roberts argued that, while past over-provision by operators means today's users are not yet seeing serious problems with streaming services, "things are already dire for many Internet service providers and network operators".
"Keeping up with bandwidth demand has required huge outlays of cash to build an infrastructure that remains under-utilised," he wrote. "To put it another way: we've thrown bandwidth at a problem that really requires a computing solution."
The answer, according to Roberts, is 'flow management', which he is developing at his start-up, Anagran. The company has a 'flow manager', the FR-1000, which Roberts says can "replace routers and DPI systems or may simply be added to existing networks".