a.k.a. distributed networking
A network in which the server is "nondedicated" (meaning it is also used as a workstation). In this kind of network, every computer acts on its own (storing files and accessing peripherals) and can "see" every other computer on the network (if it has the proper access privileges). Each workstation has equivalent capabilities and responsibilities.
Peer-to-peer networks were once thought best for smaller networks (those with fewer than a dozen computers), but since most PCs can be set up to share files, a large number of users can easily access each other's hard drive via the Internet (as evidenced by Napster and other music-swapping services). In most large networks, though, that ability begins to break down because common resources cannot be shared efficiently. That's why client/server architectures have some computers that are dedicated to serving the others.
Peer-to-peer networks are generally simpler, but they usually do not offer comparable performance under heavy loads. For further information, see Gnutella (which represents "distributed peer-to-peer") and Napster (which represents "centralized peer-to-peer"). There is a widespread belief that the more people who connect to a network, the more valuable that connection becomes.
NetLingo Classification: Technical Terms
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