I agree, I've been looking into packaging "blocks" for download so that you can install the client, unzip a fresh stack of blocks and let the client finish off the rest to get people up and running faster. I'm experimenting with Windows and Linux clients (don't have a Mac that can run the Mac client, sorry folks)
Hopefully that will help with the issue.
Of course, the trust factor comes in (should I download these from this guy instead of letting the network do it for me)
Well, I don't see problems with trust if properly implemented.
The whole idea that downloading zipped blocks is faster than downloading "from network" means performance problems in BitCoin client.
I know that long time ago bitcoin client utilized very little of available bandwidth because of cache flushing after each single block or something like that. But Satoshi fixed that. Did someone test how much bandwidth (of available bandwidth) is used and how much data is downloaded when a new chain is downloaded?
If bandwidth is underutilized - then networking code must be rewritten. If zipping helps to compress chain (I'm not sure because chain contains a lot of hashes and those are random and thus incompressible) - then compression must be built in. If chain is downloaded many times - then trust scheme must be changed to Emule AICH or similar:
Newer versions of eMule support AICH - Advanced Intelligent Corruption Handling. It is meant to make eMule's corruption handling competitive with BitTorrent. SHA-1 hashes are computed for each 180kb sub-chunk and a whole SHA-1 hash tree is formed. AICH is processed purely with peer-to-peer source exchanges. eMule requires 10 agreeing peers regarding the SHA-1 hash, so rare files generally do not benefit from AICH.
So instead of asking each peer for blocks, Bitcoin client can ask for block hashes and even for hashes of block ranges (to save hash traffic) to download each block only once.
Also, transaction clearinghouse function can be easily be built in the current network. We can have a "trust network to validate transactions" setting.
Also, blockchain is not needed to generate blocks, so a purely generating node can ask other nodes for hashes needed to build its block instead of asking for chain. And people will be able to contribute either bandwidth or CPU or both. Now they are forced to contribute bandwidth.
I am for example in a remote village in Nigeria connecting over EDGE. 30 MB of chain costs me 9 NGN that is 0.06 USD. But with terabytes of traffic that will not be affordable. Even now 30 MB is not affordable because a lot of people earn less than $200 a month and 0.06 USD is the cheapest possible wholesale price because I pay $80 a month for a 3 GB cap at 120 kbps down / 80 up I measured.
Debit/credit cards industry is not developed here, but everyone has a cheap fake Chinese phone with J2ME and thus capable to run some client software.