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Free-riding and whitewashing in peer-to-peer systems

TitleFree-riding and whitewashing in peer-to-peer systems
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsFeldman, M, Papadimitriou, C, Chuang, J, Stoica, I
Conference NamePINS'04. Proceedings of the ACM SIGCOMM Workshop on Practice and Theory of Incentives in Networked Systems
Date Published08/2004
Conference LocationPortland, OR
ISBN Number1-58113-942-X
Keywordscheap pseudonyms, cooperation, equilibrium, exclusion, free-riding, identity cost, incentives, peer-to-peer networking, whitewashing

We develop a model to study the phenomenon of free-riding in peer-to-peer (P2P) systems. At the heart of our model is a user of a certain type, an intrinsic and private parameter that reflects the user's willingness to contribute resources to the system. A user decides whether to contribute or free-ride based on how the current contribution cost in the system compares to her type. When the societal generosity (i.e., the average type) is low, intervention is required in order to sustain the system. We present the effect of mechanisms that exclude low type users or, more realistic, penalize free-riders with degraded service. We also consider dynamic scenarios with arrivals and departures of users, and with whitewashers: users who leave the system and rejoin with new identities to avoid reputational penalties. We find that when penalty is imposed on all newcomers in order to avoid whitewashing, system performance degrades significantly only when the turnover rate among users is high.