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Startup Kontiki Sets Sail, Harvesting Bandwidth

A new company backed by Netscape Communications Corp. and Loudcloud Inc. founder Marc Andreessen is working on a "bandwidth-harvesting" platform that uses individual PCs as edge servers to transport digital content between Internet users.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Kontiki Inc. said it has raised $18 million in capital from Andreessen, Intuit Inc. chairman Bill Campbell and venture-capital firms Benchmark Capital and Barksdale Group.

The company said it has developed several technology patents and created a secure Internet delivery network for audio, video and software.

Though digital media is growing in acceptance, "bandwidth congestion, security concerns and the difficulty in effectively monetizing digital assets are preventing content providers and enterprises from fully utilizing digital media," chairman and CEO Mike Homer said in a statement. "Further end users are put off by today's distribution systems, which are hard to use and produce poor output, with video being shown on screens the size of large portage stamps."

Kontiki employs both a server and PC-based delivery system. The company will use the thousands of Web servers deployed by Web-hosting company Loudcloud Inc. to deliver content to end users, said Kontiki vice president of products and services Tony Espinoza.

Kontiki is also developing a content delivery network that links individual client PCs on its network. That network can determine which PCs have requested the same digital-media files, then identify the most efficient path to deliver the content, whether from a Loudcloud server five miles away or a PC down the street.

Kontiki harvests bandwidth from those PCs by using redundant and fault-tolerant network management servers attached directly to the Internet backbone.

The company, which began testing its technology last week, says the setup allows companies to save money on transmission costs and provides users with a better end-quality experience.

Kontiki is targeting entertainment and media companies and has held discussions with such cable networks as ESPN, Espinoza said.

The company also envisions a strong enterprise play, as businesses increase their use of downloaded and streamed video for electronic learning, training and promotional purposes. Internet surfers will also use Kontiki technology to download audio, video, software and gaming content from the Web, the company predicts.

Users can also schedule downloads of such items as movie trailers or gaming software in advance, or make reservations for upcoming releases.

For example, Espinosa said, Warner Bros. has periodically released trailers for its upcoming film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
, due in November, generating millions of hits on the film's Web site.

The studio could deliver the trailer to the same number of users via Kontiki's "time-shifted" network-delivery system — at one-third to one-tenth the cost.

Users could also obtain subscriptions that provide automatic deliveries, Espinoza said. A New York Yankees fan who lives in Florida could sign up for a personalized highlights service from ESPN, for instance. Once Yankees highlights are posted on ESPN.com, the video would automatically be sent to that subscriber's PC.

Users would obtain the content they request in the same manner as they receive electronic mail.

"With this network always available to users, enterprises and media companies will have a direct channel through which to distribute their digital content directly to their customers or employees," Homer said.

Although Kontiki will dip into the peer-to-peer world, it won't be a forum for Napster Inc.-type activity.

"We will not enable any form of piracy," Espinoza said. "Users cannot publish content."

Kontiki will use digital rights-management technology from Microsoft Corp., RealNetworks Inc. and InterTrust Technologies Corp. to provide a secure environment for content providers.

Espinoza believes some content providers will develop subscription services using Kontiki's network.

"They'll say, 'We can offer stuff consumers can't get on TV,'" he said.