The month of May has been a very exciting one for Infinit. Together with you – our users – we’ve seen a drastic difference between the first two versions of Infinit, not only in terms of performance, but in experience, as well.
Over the past 3 weeks, we’ve met with dozens of people, asked hundreds of questions and watched diligently as some users struggled to understand the first steps in using Infinit. As they say in French – bref – we’ve learned a lot from you! This next release will prove to be a landmark in the evolution of our application because we’re delivering on the promise of infinite. But, we’re also throwing in much more…
This new version of Infinit will include:
Over the next few weeks, we look forward to meeting even more of you, improving the stabilization of file transfers and making a truly unique and fun experience! If you have any questions or you’d like to offer us more feedback, we’d love to here from you at email@example.com or on Twitter @infinitdotio.
Since we decided to propel ourselves into true startup mode, almost 18 months ago with the start of Season 2 of Le Camping, we’ve been lucky enough to discover the Parisian startup ecosystem from its core. It is truly amazing to see the amount of innovation and motivation that this relatively small ecosystem seems to encompass. And while we have had the opportunity to meet a lot of the talent behind Paris-based companies, there always seems to be someone or something new to discover.
A few weeks ago, we decided that we wanted to take our implication in the social good of our local ecosystem, a step further. Infinit, in collaboration with our hosts, Gandi.net and our next-door neighbor, VLC, organized a small event called L’Abreuvoir à Startups. This short French phrase literally translates to The Startup Trough – a peculiar name indeed, but one that makes reference to the idea that entrepreneurs work as hard as animals and sometimes, well, they just need a drink. The idea was simple enough – let’s get some fun entrepreneurs with great ideas to pitch their companies, have a beer and hang out with other startuppers, the press community, some friends and a couple of investors. The startups we invited were:
The ambiance was vibrant. Gandi.net’s kitchen lounge offered a professionally designed setting for an event that showed off fascinating concepts, sparked engaging conversations, and in typical Infinit style, included a few good kegs of Belgian beer. The good times continued well into the night and for some, until the early hours of the morning ;)
We’d like to thank everyone that participated in the event and we look forward to organizing the next edition very soon!
First off, we’d like to thank our first users for everything they’ve done to contribute to this new release of Infinit. We’ve made a lot of modifications – some big and others smaller. Each new brick we lay is based on our community’s feedback and we’re very excited to continue developing Infinit with you!
Today, we’re launching a new version of Infinit with a few big changes:
Our whole team has been working incredibly hard to stabilize Infinit even further, as well as improve the overall experience of the OS X application. Today and tomorrow, we’ll be opening up Infinit to even more fans. We hope to continue to work together with our entire community in order to make this application the most fun and powerful sharing tool available.
For this reason, we’re asking Paris-based beta subscribers to let us know if they would like priority access to Infinit. We’d love to meet up in person with individuals in our local community in order to get your first thoughts on the design, added value and functionality of the application. This will ultimately help us better understand your expectations and usage of the tool. Feel free to get in touch with us if you’d like to participate by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll have one of our team members set up a meeting with you to get you started. We can then exchange about your needs and concerns as well as address any questions you might have about our technology and user experience.
To accompany today’s new release, we’ve added some new pages to our website including a team page where you can read some amusing and far too absurd stories about our team members in order to get to know us a bit more. We’ve also added a better contact page with some additional information about where we are and how to get in touch. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll also be improving our site, adding more information and writing a bit more in on our blog. Feel free to follow us on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Google +.
Today is the day that we show the world how we plan on pushing the limits of technology, of simplicity, and above all, of usefulness.
We’re launching Infinit for Mac OS X to start off. It’s the first application to natively integrate with the Finder, the file manager for Mac. As a peer-to-peer application, there is no centralized third-party infrastructure, allowing for quite a few advantages. With Infinit, there is no file size or type limitation. In addition, the peer-to-peer nature of Infinit allows for direct file transfers between users, offering significantly higher performance than cloud-based sharing. But for us, peer-to-peer goes beyond linking devices and transferring files. It’s about people. The interface we’ve designed is all about people, so all your contacts are represented by icons.
Before all you loyal followers get giddy about finally having a crack at using Infinit, there are 2 things you should know.
The first is that we’re launching to small groups of users, slowly. As you may or may not know, Infinit is above all a technology. Behind the pretty and polished interface is a powerful technology that requires a good amount of work and upkeep. Throughout April, we’ll be working hard to stabilize everything so that we can ensure an intrepid experience when we’re fully live at the end of the month.
The second aspect is that Infinit is a bit different than what we set out to build. At the outset, the focus was on a high performance, peer-to-peer platform with a million features that would make every techie salivate at the mere thought of a “distributed file system.” Don’t worry! This is still in the works!
Some of you might be excited to hear this news; others perhaps, disappointed. For those of you that were expecting something bigger, don’t wander too far because in a few weeks, we’ll have a surprise ready for Linux junkies. In the meantime, check out our new site, www.infinit.io.
The last few months have been a rollercoaster ride for the Usenet ecosystem. Under heavy pressure from Hollywood lobbyists and the promulgation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the United States, two of the largest Usenet archives, NZBMatrix and Newbin, have been shut down. Perhaps this isn’t a surprise to many since these archives have been under pressure from the Motion Picture Association among other entertainment organizations for several years now. Nevertheless, their closure symbolizes a drastic change in the way we share data and collaborate. Without Usenet archiving services, much of the data and content that circulates through the Usenet ecosystem can, and probably will be lost forever.
Usenet was created in 1979, well before the rise of the World Wide Web. It was largely used to circulate news in an era of slow Internet connectivity, and served as the predecessor to online public forums. It’s historical value may appear to be insignificant today, but much of what became standard on the World Wide Web, particularly in its earlier years, was actually based on Usenet features - think of threads, FAQs, discussions, etc.
One of the major advantages of Usenet to more sophisticated users includes the free or paid access to information via archive services including text, documents, entertainment, etc. through a decentralized system. We lament what may be the decline of such a historically important technology, but as is the case with most web-based tools, paradigm shifts in usage are inevitable, regardless of how they are brought on. In the case of Usenet, the end result is that by removing archiving services, the system has very little chance of surviving.
In recent years, piracy has been a major concern for monopolistic content creators, whose interests are advanced by governments. The vast spread of pirated content across the Usenet ecosystem and its retention by searchable archive services like Newzbin has only aggravated the situation. Many questions can be raised regarding how owners of these services handled content, as well as how governments and judicial systems treated the demands of content creators. One thing is sure – net neutrality is still far from being actualized. Money and power still have a significant influence on internet policy and internet freedom.
Yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In a world where innovation outpaces the reactivity of politicians and special interest groups, new technologies that are able to circumvent government oversight and intrusion will be developed – not out of interest in accessing pirated content, but rather to provide a secure and free forum for the exchange of all information. Already, many companies have launched products that may prove to be the ‘Usenets’ of tomorrow and there is more reason to think that the decline of Usenet will lead to a new, more powerful ecosystem, than a complete lack of one. Infinit is just one of the companies providing secure, private and collaborative peer-to-peer experiences. We’re not alone, and despite what politics and money attempt to control, innovation is moving far too fast for governments and special interests to keep up.
As we continue to chug along the path to a killer product, we’ve made some preliminary adjustments and upgrades. Infinit is now in the hands of a good number of early users and feedback is coming in every day. Our first power users are largely, technically savvy engineers that take real pleasure in testing out a buggy product.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be working on designing our UI and UX for an unparalleled experience on Mac as well as the stabilization of the core product to ensure that it works. We’ve gotten a lot of emails asking about when we will be releasing to the full list of alpha subscribers, and we wanted to give you an answer!
Our roadmap is coming together more and more. As the core is stabilized, Linux users will begin receiving their official invitations and access codes. Over the next few months, we’ll also be integrating a UI for Mac and testing a few different versions with several small groups of Apple fans. Once we’re able to make sure most of the bugs have been kicked out, we’ll begin pushing it out to more users. You can expect that first mass release to be in November and that most everyone signed up for the alpha will receive their official invitations before the end of the year.
It would help us, if you could access your Mailchimp profile and let us know which operating system you’re using so that we can put you at the top of the list to receive an invitation. You can access this through your alpha subscription confirmation email.
Hold on tight because the end of the year is approaching quickly and we can’t wait to let you all try out the Infinit magic!
The spotlight in tech this week is on Spotify. As the patent wars rage on, the Dutch innovation house, Nonend Inventions, is going after Spotify for infringement on at least 5 US patents. Nonend is a research company based largely on innovations in peer-to-peer technologies. Peer-to-peer has long been viewed as a malevolent technology promoting unchecked and illegal activities ranging from communications to file sharing. Whether the media or governments have propagated these negative stereotypes over the past decade is up for debate. Nevertheless, the fact is that peer-to-peer technologies are actually more efficient than much of what exists today. And what’s more is that we use them on a daily basis and don’t even know it!
In the case of Spotify, users care about quick access to the songs they want. In reality when a song is streamed, it’s identified on the most accessible node on the Spotify network. These nodes are unassuming people from the teenager in the apartment below you, blasting music on his home stereo, the I-banker crunching numbers on Excel with his headphones on at work or that cute girl across from you on the metro listening to Lady Gaga on her smartphone. In reality less than 10% of the music accessed on Spoitfy actually comes from a Spotify server. But do you really care where it comes from? Of course not. You just want instant access to the next Meshuggah album. Spotify can thus get away with lower hosting costs, and because you’re downloading music from a peer-to-peer network, you get incredibly fast performance.
Let’s take another example. Have you ever needed to make an international phone call? Then you’ve probably used Skype, the foremost used tool in VoIP communication. It’s also one of the largest peer-to-peer networks in the world. Although it’s not a full peer-to-peer system as it relies also on a client-server infrastructure as well, it does relay connections between users in the background, although you would never guess it.
Even the mainstream media has begun using peer-to-peer technologies. The BBC, a fully public, UK entity actually built the first version of its iPlayer on a peer-to-peer technology. They did it to provide a scalable mechanism for the large amounts of data being distributed throughout the iPlayer ecosystem. Rather than several users downloading large files in many instances directly from BBC servers, the technology allows users to stream content from other users removing a large part of the burden from the centralized infrastructure.
Peer-to-peer is an incredibly valuable concept across many industries, applications and services. So why is it perceived so negatively? In the late 1990s and early 2000s with the rise of BitTorrent and Kazaa, peer-to-peer took on a negative connotation for its association with illegal file sharing. But that’s another topic. Peer-to-peer technologies are not bad. In fact they generally provide more scalability to businesses and offer their users better performance than centralized infrastructures. The concept is now being applied to lending, car sharing and even food distribution! Once the world can get over the fact that peer-to-peer technologies are not inherently malicious, then maybe you won’t have to wait so long for the video by the incredibly talented Rebecca Black to buffer…
What are your thoughts on peer-to-peer?
Every startupper knows and understands the concept of bootstrapping. While usually applied to the financial context of a company, it trickles down to the team and their habits. The lean environment in which a startup functions has a big impact on factors relating to its employees from rent to leisure consumption and even food.
The pioneer of this concept at Infinit is Charles. Charles has been apt at applying bootstrapping to his food choices. He’s built a philosophy for Infinit around saving money on food by exploiting some of the best deals in our neighborhood, Paris’s 13th arrondissement home to the city’s largest Chinatown. While the array of Asian foods is tempting and often quite cheap, it’s still not the most cost effective option (although who can resist an authentic bo bun once in a while?).
Charles has made a point of adapting his diet to what’s available rather than choosing what he wants to eat before going out. However, it’s no secret that the French are finicky eaters. And as the Infinit team is mostly French, the diet must be both simple and well balanced.
If you’ve ever been to France, then you know that fast meals for lunch are a far cry from Anglophone culture’s prevalence for McDonald’s, Subway, or even Panera and Hale and Hearty. Rather, it’s largely based on simple sandwiches. But you can only eat so many baguettes and ham in one week!
Charles has been eating for under €3 per lunch for months now. In the US, this would limit you to Mickey D’s dollar menu, but in France it’s another story. Luckily, a huge supermarket, down the street provides for a large variety. Charles is an avid proponent of the discount section. Every day, the supermarket offers up products reaching their expiration date for 50%-70% off in their discount aisle. These offerings change daily, giving him options of new ingredients consistently. In addition, the massive range of fresh fruits and vegetables offers a selection of healthy choices.
Let’s take a look at two of the best dishes Charles promotes not only to our Infinit team, but also to our corporate host, Gandi (who by the way have a truly remarkable kitchen):
Charles has a firm belief that a microwave can offer up some food that would rival oven-cooked meals. Here’s how to make fish-in-a-bag. Take a piece of frozen fish, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and capers and place them in a microwavable Ziplock bag. Throw it in the microwave for 8 minutes and voilà: a gourmet meal in less than 10 minutes! Beat that Rachael Ray.
Tomatoes and Cheese
One of the team’s favorites, again pioneered by Charles is medley of fresh flavors. Three tomatoes, cut into slices and drizzled in olive oil, salt and pepper. In the midst of it all lies a chunk of Brousse. You’re probably thinking what the hell is Brousse? To a southern Frenchie like Charles, that’s a silly question. But for ignorant Americans like myself, we need an explanation. Brousse is a granular cheese with a texture between feta and Mozzarella well known in southern France. Brousse and seasoned tomatoes make for an incredibly tasty and healthy lunch!
Startuppers, there’s no reason to resort to those college habits of eating ramen (unless you’re headed to Momofuku of course!). There are tons of healthy and cheap options and if you push yourself to adopt the Mediterranean diet, you can treat your body well while changing the world with your business.
Any good entrepreneur will tell you that regardless of his or her vision for what the product can become, it’s always a good idea to listen to users. A product, in alpha, beta, test phase, or whatever you want to call it is still a work in progress, akin to a child in her infancy. Infinit is still a baby – a blank slate if you will. Like a child, Infinit grows and adapts based on its environment – one created by the needs and opinions of its users.
It all starts with a small group of people – the power users. Power users are like parents that educate a child. The power of a small user base helps Infinit develop a strong value proposition and relevance. Like a child, a product is capable of learning a lot. Our power users are a group of individuals composed of researchers, engineers, designers and general aficionados of file sharing and data storage applications. With their help, the foundations of Infinit are being developed. When you think about it, there’s a lot to be learned. What feature do people value the most? What functionalities are used most often and how should they be accessed? How can each aspect be made simpler and clearer?
Power users are also different from typical users. They demand more from a product. They value features that enhance their experience more than what already exists. But what’s more is that these individuals help instill the values of the company behind the product. It’s easy for a company to be shortsighted as it’s a simple approach. For us, it’s important to think of the long-term implications of the decisions we make. No company, even those with well-known visionaries at the helm can look into the future. Nevertheless, critical thinking and working with a community of intelligible power users helps to democratize a product and build flexibility into its capabilities and how they manifest themselves. With Infinit, our power users are helping us think through not just the “now,” but also about the “if.” Their help will contribute to the construction of a reliable and flexible tool, a sustainable business and a transparent company.
The age old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” has never been as true as it is today. Many industries are going through drastic changes due to uncontrollable exogenous factors. The economic underpinnings of global digital commerce are slowly coming loose. Technology over the past decade has changed the way we do business. Business models, profitability, customer acquisition and retention have all been turned upside down with the advent of the Internet, cloud computing and applications built on top of this infrastructure. One need look no further than the music industry to see how drastic the impact has been. Every service provider dealing in a business to consumer context will encounter a technological shift. Today’s giants of industry will have to change and adapt or experience an inglorious death.
Let’s take a look at the pervasive impact file sharing has had and how insurmountable this trend has become for the content industry. BitTorrent, the most well known peer-to-peer file sharing network now accounts for one fifth of all Internet traffic. One fifth! That’s 20% of more than 27,000 petabytes per month in 2011. While BitTorrent does have many practical applications for exchanging files, much of that data is not surprisingly, in the form of books, music, movies, TV shows, etc. The Internet Archive, a California non-profit, itself has a collection of more than 1.5 million accessible torrent files. What does this mean? Well, simply put, traditional content distribution platforms are encountering competition from new, free platforms. If you were the CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment what would you do?
The so-called free culture movement is cannibalizing traditional revenue streams with a tool that accounts for 20% of all Internet traffic. Your commitment to shareholders would say that you should fight against this by limiting people’s access to the use of BitTorrent for example. So, because your interests are those of your shareholders you file for an injunction with a federal court to stop ISPs from providing service to users of such systems. In the UK, BT, SKY, Virgin and a host of other ISPs were recently forced to censor Newzbin, a Usenet indexing site for copyrighted content amongst other types of data.
This action has two direct consequences. First, it angers customers of the ISP, putting the ISP in an awkward situation vis-à-vis the people paying for its service. Most ISPs, given the option, would probably not want to piss off their customer base. Second, it forces people to think of new ways to access content. If you were a user of BitTorrent, what would be the next logical step for you? You know where the content is, but you can’t access it. It’s like encountering a roadblock. If you can’t go through it, then you look for the fastest way around it. This behavior is engrained in human instinct and the content industry needs to understand this. In the UK, when The Pirate Bay was shut down, the next day hundreds of proxy sites came online. More recently, with the injunction against Newzbin in the UK, a more technical approach was taken. Newzbin decided to provide an encrypted client to circumvent the imposed censorship. What’s more is that the new client can automatically adapt to updates or changes in the censorship mechanisms!
So, if you are the CEO of Warner Bros. what should you do now? You’ve seen that technology will win out in the end. You can fight it or adapt to it. There is only one right answer. Those that accept that will be the businesses that survive to see tomorrow. Those that do not will become but a faint recollection of our past. Historically dominant companies that rely on paid models of digital content distribution to mainstream consumers will inevitably have to change their business models and completely reconstruct their value chain in order to remain competitive. Few companies have the foresight and leadership to do so. And despite legal regulations, injunctions or other judicial action to provoke anything less than a free and open Internet, neither government nor traditional industry will be able to stop the world’s access to information. The best part is that you and me, as consumers, have front row seats to the game that will lay the groundwork for a new economy – one that is being created right now.