P2P filesharing networks work by enabling lots of computers on the Internet to share files with each other. Most of the P2P networks today use the BitTorrent protocol.
BitTorrent has some superficial similarities to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin: namely, it is a protocol offering decentralised communications among autonomous nodes in a network.
There are several potential problems for people wanting to use BitTorrent networks. The first is that visitors to sites like The Pirate Bay may be blocked by their own ISPs, possibly at the behest of governments or industry lobby groups.
"I don't think a decentralised service offers a way around ISPs," said Nick Lambert, COO at MaidSafe, which focuses on distributed secure file storage. "When the SAFE Network launches - which is the most decentralised service I have heard of, as it doesn't have a blockchain - it is still not immune from ISPs."
Theoretically, users could do away with ISPs altogether with a decentralised mesh network using bitcoin as an incentive to participate. Lambert points to Libernet, a bitcoin-funded mesh networking concept, as a way to dodge ISPs altogether. This is more of a theoretical solution than a practical one at present, though.
"The quest to find a replacement for ISPs is something that many people would like to see, but unfortunately I think a really viable solution is a wee bit off," he concluded.
The other potential problem for filesharing users is that even if their ISPs let them visit sites like The Pirate Bay, local law enforcement may take those sites down at the source, as happened with The Pirate Bay.
However, this may be less of an issue than expected, because The Pirate Bay wasn't actually sharing the files itself. Instead, it was simply an index, maintaining a database of those files.
"Despite the warning message, most of these users will still download their file successfully, since BitTorrent trackers have already been made mostly redundant by a global P2P network