P2P-Next is running an early trial with around 500 participants to assess client (software application) suitability, to examine whether our plans and work for a full P2P system will deliver useful outputs, and to stick with the "Release Early, Release Often" approach that we're aiming for with this project.
You can take part in the trial, as there are still some spaces left. Head over to trial.p2p-next.org to download the software.
P2P-Next will run across the European Union (the Commission is paying for a hefty chunk of the work, after all), with 21 partner companies, and the BBC is exploring how a UK-facing, licence fee-funded corporation like us can work outside its normal geographic boundaries.
Clearing BBC content for worldwide redistribution without DRM is no mean feat. Thanks go to Richard Chapman and the other folks in the BBC Weather Centre, along with the Met Office, for allowing us to add a four minute bulletin of the European weather forecast to the trial.
One of the main problems that we're trying to solve with this project is the fact that a lot of very interesting P2P projects can't quite cope with live content. This means, for example, that P2P distribution wouldn't work with news, or live sporting events. One of our partners in the project, Fabchannel has contributed a live feed from their Amsterdam office, showing that we have managed to crack live P2P, at least for this small trial.
The content in this trial is, admittedly, not the stuff that keeps online video companies afloat, or makes the BBC's consumer VOD services like iPlayer so popular - but then this technical test isn't hugely about the content. We're examining network performance problems with consumer broadband being rate limited on upload compared to download speed, and how changes to video codec and bitrates affect live video playback. All of this fits into our stated goal with this project - to explore and create next generation Internet distribution systems for TV and radio content.
The code behind the trial is written in Python. We have Windows  and Ubuntu/Debian GNU/Linux clients built now - OSX is coming Real Soon Now. Source is also available via our SVN repo. Code is released under OSI approved free software licences, so if your favourite distro isn't featured, you can build your own binary (and redistribute it!).
P2P Next is still rough around the edges in part - it's not consumer-focussed, after all, so READMEs and features are still very much work in progress - but then this is a four year research project and we're only in July of the first year ('M7' in EU language).
There'll be more news on this as we make further releases.
George Wright is Portfolio Manager, Rapid Application and Development, Research & Innovation, BBC Future Media & Technology.