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P2P Parade

January 14, 2003 13:59 IST


Andrea M

Napster and the file sharing wave changed the lives of millions of music lovers. But the company's downfall has not compelled users to queue up outside record stores yet.

Aided by CD rippers, encoders, burners, bandwidth and an array of Napster successors - known as 'second' or 'third' generation peer-to-peer networks and software -  the great file sharing wave lives on, despite the copyrights issues involved.

There are currently over a hundred popularly used P2P clients such as Kazaa, Shareaza and Limewire. Gnutella and FastTrack are among the most popular P2P networks. (See box below)

So what's the hottest new P2P software? Rohan, a second year college student and a file-sharing veteran says there is no single software to answer all needs. "I have used almost 20-25 different P2P clients and several P2P networks over the last three years. I now stick to only three to four softwares such as Kazaa or eDonkey depending on what I want to download and share - music, movie or games."

P2P users have certainly grown up since their Napster days with a number of 'power' users typically using two applications, the more popular of the lot being Kazaa, Morpheus, Limewire, Direct Connect and Blubster for music. For large files of over 700MB, eDonkey is popular.

P2P networks themselves have undergone an evolution into next generation networks. From the traditional 'Napster model' of a centralised server which can be shut down, many are taking the decentralised route i.e. networks which connect computers to each other. So a single computer might be shut down, but the service still stays up making the RIAA's drive to shut down P2P networks more difficult.

P2P services also allow any kind of file to be swapped. Movies, pictures, documents, software and not just MP3 or music files. Some P2P music networks like Blubster support Ogg Vorbis formats besides MP3. Some have morphed into corporate P2P networks offering digital content delivery solutions. Many like Audiogalaxy have toed the copyright line and now only allow you to download music from artists hosted on the site.

P2P internet radio or radio broadcasting offered by Peercast and Streamer let you stream MP3 and Ogg Vorbis files to other users connected on the network.

The popularity of the software is determined by the network of users, and what you can find on these networks or online communities. If it's Britney you want, it's got to be Kazaa or Morpheus. If it's unusual such as electronic music, hip-hop, rare and underground tracks, Soulseek is the answer. But popularity can kill you. That's what Gnutella found out when its networks were inundated with Napster refugees!

The legal eagles, namely the RIAA, haven't quite given up trying to police every single P2P network on the face of the Net. Many have gone under and next in the line of fire is Madster, if the P2P Piracy Prevention Act of 2002 strikes a 'nail in the coffin'. This US Bill if passed would give copyright holders legal immunity to attack the computers of file sharers suspected of piracy.

And if this doesn't work, other measures include getting computer component manufacturers to include copy protection or 'policeware' in computer hardware and software such the unsuccessful Microsoft's Digital Rights Management (DRM) incorporated into Windows Media Player and IBM's EMMS.

Despite the legal muddle and the attempts of the RIAA to break up the party, P2P file sharing still lives on.

The P2P Parade

Here's what everyone's hooked on:

Fast Track is one of the most popular P2P networks and has over 2 million users on its network. Several P2P clients can be used to access the fast track network such as:

  • Kazaa, the most popular P2P client since Napster can be used to download and share MP3 audio files, movies, videos, images, documents, and other file formats. You can organise and play your files as well as chat with other users. The latest version has an integrated anti-virus software. And if you want to jazz it up with a new look, check out Kazaa Skins
  • For Kazaa, minus the annoying ads and spyware, check out Kazaalite, a hacked version of Kazaa and the very popular Diet Kazaa.
  • Grokster and iMesh

Gnutella is a public network that lets you access huge libraries of files shared by users. Gnutella clients are Shareza, Limewire, BearShare, Morpheus and Xolox.

Other networks

Blubster is a decentralised network that lets you look up music files with speed. Though it's only for music files, it supports both MP3 and Ogg Vorbis file formats. According to Rohan, Blubster has a great community that even lets you chat (voice included) with users while downloading files.

eDonkey is considered on the best networks for movies and has variations such as the open source emule, which has more features and better search capabilities.

Direct Connect is another favourite community oriented network. It is not server driven and allows you to connect directly to users. There is no restriction on the type or format of files that you can share.

File sharing on IRC is also a great option but it's difficult to use.

For detailed reviews on the best software to use, check out Zeropaid
and P2PChat.

(Names of the people quoted in this article have been changed to protect identity)

Disclaimer: The material on this Web page is for informational purposes only. It may not reflect the most current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. The ideas, information, and opinions expressed on this page should not be taken as an indication of future results, legal advice or other advice on any particular matter. and its contributing authors expressly disclaim all liability to any person who acts or fails to act based wholly or partially in reliance upon any part of the contents of this page.



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