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EarthLink’s R&D lab on Thursday released a proof-of-concept application to show how a popular messaging protocol can be used for purposes other than what it was designed, including sharing data. Dubbed SIPshare, the peer-to-peer application is designed to show how SIP — for Session Initiation Protocol — can be used for chores other than its typical collaboration and voice over IP (VoIP) duties.

“The emerging ubiquity of SIP as a general session-initiation enabler provides a rare opportunity to offer users all manner of P2P applications over a common protocol, instead of inventing a new protocol for each new P2P application that comes along,” EarthLink explained on the SIPshare site.

Although SIP is primarily used for VoIP, EarthLink said the Internet standard “is too important to consider use only for voice, or only for video,” and created SIPshare to show the protocol’s flexibility.

However, said EarthLink, SIP could also be used to build a P2P-style VoIP network, something that would rival the proprietary Skype in scope, but be based on open Internet standards.

“SIPshare demonstrates that it is conceivable that voice over IP, where voice is just content of a different form, itself can be implemented using SIP in a fully standards-based P2P network. In other words, the effect of Skype, but with one important difference: using standards-based protocols, as EarthLink SIPshare does for content sharing,” EarthLink wrote.

SIPshare is open-source — it was released under a BSD-type license — and can be downloaded from the SIPshare site.

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