zSlide – From France With Files

Alternative media is becoming more and more of a popular choice for digital consumers today. As this media becomes adopted by more and more users, zSlide hopes to help this along with a product of their own.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Does it have competitors with the same general idea? Sure. Will it stand out and become a user’s chosen software? That might not be answered for quite some time.

zSlide is based in France, which happened to be one of many countries that went into copyright turmoil before Sweden took center stage in recent months (which ultimately helped bring the Pirate Party to France under the name the French Internauts.) Some may remember when EMI attacked France over copyright issues. Apple also did its share with Copyright law when it was able to bend the laws to support their DRM. Interestingly enough, despite the initial move towards more filesharing-friendly laws, France also then concerned advocates over possibly banning all free software. Things in France have since become relatively quiet.

Now enter zSlide, a free service that is designed to send “legitimate” (authorized) content to a users e-mail.

If one finds the right sources, it isn’t necessarily that hard – even for a completely new person – to find unauthorized content online. Authorized content, on the other hand, suffers from the more difficult challenge of being noticed by the thousands of users online – both experienced and inexperienced. It may likely stem from the lack of funds to advertise, but some creators of authorised content do wiggle their way into the spotlight of international attention through word of mouth. Perhaps the greatest irony in this sense is that the content not meant for such free online distribution is generally the most widely avaliable while the content whose creators are trying to get noticed and make their work widely avaliable generally have a tougher time doing so.

zSlide made a press release (PDF) describing their service.

“zSlide, a privately held company based in
France, today announced that their podmailing.com Peer-To-Peer service is used to distribute legitimate videos over the Internet.

Podmailer was introduced in July 2006 as a simple software to send & receive Peer-To-Peer e-mail attachments of any size for free. Now zSlide
uses its Peer-To-Peer content delivery service to reach thousands of Internet users.

podmailing.com is already distributing high-quality videos for UMP, the French political majority party, and its leader, Interior Minister Nicolas
Sarkozy. This first experience gathered an audience of thousands of viewers in less than 24 hours – many of which had never tried Peer-To-Peer before. ”

Podmailing, for the senders of content, appears to use Windows-only software. However, if one looks over their news section, it’ll be easily noted that versions for Linux and Mac are planned to be released sometime in October of this year. It utilizes BitTorrent technology for sending content. The non-commercial software is currently freely avaliable to the general public, but the commercial version is offered as a private beta test which is only avaliable through registration.

Interestingly enough, there is opinion on the podmailing blog favoring downloaded content over streaming content. One can safely assume that they are developing their software geared toward what they seem to say is a superior alternative. It’s certainly an opinion backed up by evidence, to say the least. Podmailer is a part of zSlide which is a privately held company.

What is UMP? UMP is “Union for a Popular Movement” or “Union pour un Mouvement Populaire,” though generally known among the French as UMP (More information can be found via Wikipedia)

Judging by gathered information and putting it with the zSlide press release, zSlide intends on distributing content from a French political union and giving the content a new platform for a wider audience. Is that it? No. Also in the press release, it describes other content being distributed to users including Street Smart Cool Cat which is described by the press release as “Podcast show about street cultures and digital lifestyle, produced by zSlide. SSCC features interviews of artists and sportsmen as well as short films, such as episode 6: the story of Rosa,
the sexiest skateboard of this era! ” [Authors note: Yes, it is a skateboard]

The other origin of content is from One 4 One TV which is described as an “International video community website dedicated to the webcast of paintball tournament videos. Using different webcast techniques such as streaming and progressive video download, one4one.tv has recently added Peer-to-Peer technology for the delivery of its paintball videos, thanks to a partnership with zSlide and podmailing.com. The movies on one4one.tv are viewed over 500,000 times every year and the site is visited by paintball fans from 110 different countries from across the globe. Paintball as a sport ranks third in extreme sports participation in the United States of America. ” How can one go wrong with paintball?

This isn’t the end of the road for content from zSlide. There is mention of a plan for Smart Micro-Games Playlist. Essentially, the idea behind it is that it allows a user to set playlists of games, audio or video. On reading the explanation page, it appears to be insinuated that this will be integrated with a user’s PSP.

In a way, to complete the package, it seems that zSlide also offers a player. It is described as, “a software package comprising:

a fully customizable PC Player

a fully customizable Mobile Player

Both support standard Digital Right Management technologies and Content Delivery Networks architectures (client-server, over-the air, PtoP.)

Additionally, proprietary and non-standard technologies can be integrated to cater to the needs of each of our clients. Our revenue model mixes revenue sharing, OEM royalties and set-up fees. Based on our non-exclusive partnerships, we can provide our customers with an end to end solution including content management and hosting, DRM agents and servers for PC and mobile, and all sorts of content.”

It may be suggested that content encoded with supported Digital Rights Management (DRM) can be played along with content not encoded with DRM – a bit like how an iPod operates today.

A number of questions can be raised over this product, one being, “how is it different from BitTorrent?” According to the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions,) one difference is the following: “Will my computer contain files from other people?

No, you will only host and transfer files or parts of files that you sent to your contacts or that your contacts sent to you, you will not host any files from users that you don’t know.” Also, as already noted, it utilizes presently used e-mail systems.

Another question can be asked is: “How is this similar/different from Red Swoosh?” Similarities include the requirement of installing software and the use of P2P (Peer-2-Peer.) One difference is that RedSwoosh uses servers as backup to what would otherwise primarily be peers. It is unclear what technology RedSwoosh uses. RedSwoosh offers both streaming and downloading. RedSwoosh is ad-supported (unless a user pays money,) while zSlide sports a ‘SoftPedia 100% clean’ badge on their download section. While both are meant for re-distributing web content (and arguably to help save bandwidth as well as offering a new platform for potentially broader audiences,) zSlide appears to put more emphasis on “legit” content by directly offering authorized content while RedSwoosh offers a platform for redistribution. RedSwoosh made mention of limiting users on a download to 30 maximum while there is no mention of limits on zSlide. Both RedSwoosh and zSlide appear to be closed source projects.

How is zSlide similar to or different from AllPeers? Like Redswoosh, it’s a closed source project and appears to be owned by a company. AllPeers is an extension to FireFox while zSlide uses independant software. Both utilise the BitTorrent technology. zSlide appears to have been around longer then AllPeers. zSlide seems to have a lot more software options avaliable then AllPeers. zSlide has gotten less general publicity then AllPeers.

All in all, it has competition, but it may have enough differences from the other similar alternatives to help it along. Perhaps as more content gets added and as it gains compatibility with Linux and Mac, it may attract many users who are interested in alternative media.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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