Five or 10 years ago, the main reason to establish a peer-to-peer network — usually within a small office or workgroup — was to share files or scarce resources, such as printers and scanners. Today, the scope of peer-to-peer networking is broader, often on a global scale.

If you can’t imagine a global network that eschews a server as the central hub, letting thousands if not millions of PCs communicate directly, then pick up a newspaper and read about Napster Inc. Despite the legal issues Napster raised about content and copyright, the company’s 21 million users have proven the theory that peer-to-peer computing is valid. Indeed, the peer-to-peer platform is emerging as one of the most powerful platforms on the Internet.