Peer-to-Peer (P2P)

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Peer-to-peer (often abbreviated as P2P) is a distributed networking or computing architecture that divides tasks or workloads across several computer systems (each one acting as an individual peer). P2P networks can be used to share any kind of digital data, including cryptocurrencies.

In a P2P network, each peer may be referred to as a node, and the collective work of these nodes is what maintains the system up and running. In this context, each node (peer) acts both as a client and as a server in relation to other nodes. This means that all peers play the same role, receiving and broadcasting digital data.

Therefore, the structure of a P2P network is sustained by its users, who can both provide and use resources. There is no such thing as a central server or host, which makes P2P systems very different from traditional client-server models, where the data is distributed unidirectionally (from a centralized server to its clients).

The decentralized framework of P2P systems makes them highly resistant to cyber attacks and also more scalable. The more users join it, the more resilient and scalable it gets. Bigger P2P networks achieve high levels of security because there is no single point of failure (inherent to the more traditional models).

The peer-to-peer architecture became popular in 1999 with the release of file-sharing systems, where users could share digital audio files with others without relying on a central server or host. Since then, various P2P networks have emerged. Popular examples with varying use cases include BitTorrent (file-sharing), Tor (anonymous communication software), and Bitcoin (decentralized economic system).

P2P technology plays an important role in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries. When Bitcoin was created, Satoshi Nakamoto defined it as a “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” This means that users can send and receive Bitcoins all around the world without relying on a central server or intermediaries. In other terms, Bitcoin is a decentralized and distributed form of money, maintained by a big network of computer nodes.

If you're interested in further reading, check out our full article on Peer-to-Peer Networks

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