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File-Sharing: Overview
Posted by netwebly | Updated 2.10.2001 See Also: Master Napster Navigate:

Welcome to the 21st Century: The Napster Controversy

The impact of this simple little program with a funny-sounding name has been dramatic. Almost overnight, Napster has made file-sharing front page news and the company has become one of the biggest players in cyberspace.
But you already knew that.

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Napster Clones
If Napster is shut down, its a safe bet that traffic on alternative file sharing networks based on the original protocol written by Sean Fanning et. al will spike almost immediately.

The cream of the crop:



A handy utility to have pre-installed in the event of a Napster shutdown. Connect to alternate networks like xnapster, Mynapster and OpenNap. See the status of open network servers at a glance.

Easy enough to use that even the most technically challenged should be deal with it without much problem.

The Gnetwork
is the computer - Gnutella


The next generation file-sharing application allegedly inspired by
Napster's success.

Because Gnutella does not rely on a central server in the way services like Napster do, it will probably be a much harder nut for opponents to crack.

The flip side of the coin?

It's just a wee bit more complicated than napster to use and often a lot slower, although developers say that is changing.

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Gnutella Clones
There are a bewildering number of available options when it comes to picking the right Clone.

A few of the Gnutella Clones, programs based on the orginal Gnutella, are good enough to compare to Napster - the developers have put a lot of work into solving the nasty problems that plagued the first generation of clones.

Unlike earlier Gnutella clones, the latest generation make connecting to the Gnetwork about as easy as is humanly possible. PICTURED: Bearshare by FreePeers is one of the better clones you'll find out on the Net. The program will attempt connect automatically to servers around the world.

Others are barely functional monsters that will waste system resources, routinely crash, and demonstrate molasses like performance on the GnutellaNet, not to mention screw up performance of the Gnet as a whole.

Do yourself a favor. Stick with one of the reliable ones.

Our picks:


Widely acknowledged to be one of the better clones, limewire is a product of the second, more determined, wave of Gnutella development.

Conserves network resources and speeds transfer times at the same time by attempting to segregate users by geographical location and connection speed, a logical way to help improve the overall gwellbeing of the Gnet.

Slick interface. Solid development effort. Discourages free riding. Available for all major operating systems.

Tré Cool.


Unlike earlier Gnutella clones which required users to do much of the legwork that goes on behind the scenes in programs like Napster, BearShare simplifies matters considerably, an improvement that has won the application praise around the Net.

Adjusting to a Gnutella Clone should take you about fifteen seconds.  The downloading process works in pretty much the same way it does on Napster. Search for the music you want. Click on your results to download. PICTURED: Bearshare.  At OFF PEAK hours, good clones can actually outperform napster, although the available file pool is still limited...

Forget messing around with connectivity, Bearshare will do the job for you, trying connections doggedly until it gets you where you're going. Unreliable connections are closed automatically, also a good idea, and one that protects the health of the Gnetwork.

We give 'em the 'Gnod. Three cheers for FreePeers.

See Also:
(Alas, No Reviews for these as yet.)



As you hopefully already know by now, using Gnutella involves a certain element of risk, but then again, there's risk involved every time you connect to the Net. Risk that your surge protector might be overwhelmed by a sudden bolt of lightning from the sky, risk that that your best friend Ed might decide to CC: you a copy of the Chernobyl virus to get back at you for some imagined insult that happened five years ago.

Provided you take the right precautions and keep your eyes open, you're probably safe using Gnutella. That's not to say completely safe - used responsibly Gnutella is about as safe as any program like it can be, or to quote the Register "it's foolproof but not idiotproof"

Example: Cookiegate.

CNet's John Borland caused a stink not long ago when he revealed that setting up Gnutella improperly - giving people access to areas of your hard drive where they're not supposed to be - could theoretically cause you serious trouble. With a little bit of forethought an enterprising computer criminal could poke around your shared files, find any cookies containing web site passwords and well ... basically go medieval on your bank account.

So, please, do the intelligent thing:

Share only one folder on your hard drive. Install firewall software. Update your Antivirus stuff. Backup your backups.


While you're Gnetworked, a more real, ugly and annoying danger may come from people who take the opportunity to scam on your IP address and test your system for vulnerabilities.

WHY CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG, ZACK? - As millions of inexperienced newbies explore the Gnetwork in the months to come, the hacker problem is likely  to move to the forefront. PICTURED:  BlackIce Defender, one popular personal firewall, tracks activity on your connection and will alert you in the likely event the bad guys do show up. Godness! Is that a Zombie I see, flinging data packets at me?

Spyster has thoughtfully provided this application, which provides your IP address and port information to anybody you connect to who has the program installed.

It's supposed to have it's legitimate uses, but from our perspective it's hard to say what those would be.

Next up? iMesh

If and when the RIAA finally succeeds in shutting down Napster, this application is likely to be among the beneficiaries.
Created by programmers in Israel, iMesh is straight out of the mold established by Napster and Gnutella, allowing users to search for a wide variety of file types using a familiar Napsteresque interface.

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Ready to launch - Flycode

Known as Apple Soup until Apple computer started making threatening noises, this P2P startup hopes to make its mark by somehow coming up with a way to deliver secure content to Net surfers.
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You may be hearing a lot about this plug-in for Napster in the months to come. Or then again, this may be the last time you hear it mentioned.

This hack allows users to trade other file types - pictures, full programs, word docs, even .wav files if you wanted to - on Napster by disguising them as MP3s.

Most people will probably turn to Gnutella or Scour rather than go through the hassle. Or so you would think.

Because many of the file types traded on Wrapster can contain computer viruses , security experts have warned that Wrapster represents a clear and present danger.

There is evidence to support these claims. There have been reports on the napster forums of viruses, as well as word from the company that makes wrapster of an unauthorized version of the program - created and distributed by malicious crackers for this purpose.

A Glimpse of Days To Come?

Well thought out, well-designed Napster client. Created by the folks at Angry Coffee this may just be your best alternative if you find the official Napster too limiting for your purposes. Search napster, OpenNap, xnapster and the other servers of napsterdom, using a spunky interface that is in many ways an improvement on the original.

If you're curious to know what a commercial Napster might look like in the future, you may want to take a look at Mynapster.

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Well run, thoughtful source of technical information on Gnutella development and up to date info on the status of the Gnutella network. Provides a regularly updated list of reliable servers, an absolute must have if you're using a clone that's asks you to enter this info yourself.


AudioGalaxy Satellite

This nifty little file sharing program has a number of superslick features that are attracting a growing number of fans and generating something resembling a cult following around the Net.

The feature that has the most people talking: a delayed search function that stores your queries until the file you're looking for becomes available. This means that finding the stuff you're looking for on AudioGalaxy can be considerably more efficient than running the same searches on Napster or Gnutella.

If you're too chicken to brave the explosion of pornography, viruses, and maurading hacker youths with system penetration on their minds to be found on the Gnutella Gnetwork, AudioGalaxy may be a dream come true.

Instant Messaging
meets Napster - Aimster

Take two of the hottest killer apps to ever hit the Net, figure out a way to somehow meld them, and you have the recipie for a serious hit on your hands.

By combining the ideas behind Napster and instant messaging, Aimster - led by
the intriguingly named Johnny Deep - has come up with a very cool idea, one that analysts think may survive the current file sharing crisis and eventually do quite well commercially.

Following a three-month suspension of service, the company has relaunched with expanded coverage allowing users of AOL Instant Messanger, Yahoo Chat and MSN to share MP3s.

Serious potential.

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The FreeNet Project

Creator Ian Clarke was a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland when he began writing code for FreeNet.

The project he imagined, an autonomous and independent network specifically designed to resist attempts at censorship and corporate control, is as much a political statement as it is a piece of software.

Most people, however, will want to stick with a more user-friendly application until FreeNet gets it's act together, assuming it ever does.

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Clarke has since announced the formation of a new company - Uprizer - based in Santa Monica, California. The idea: develop a commercial version of FreeNet - something that on the surface sounds a bit like a contradiction in terms.

The company has been tight lipped about details. There have been hints: A plan to compensate artists has been rumored. There is also talk of a wireless wrinkle, although that sounds a tad ambitious to us. No service is available as yet, a promised December launch date has since come and gone with no sign up an uprizing.

"P2P is a technology, not a bandwagon" says Clarke.

Aha! Ohaha!
Search Using a Plug-In

A bit of a departure from most other file-sharing applications, Ohaha isn't a stand alone file sharing program at all, it is a simple plug-in you can use to turn Internet Explorer into a file-browsing search engine capable of combing Napster, Gnutella and other networks where MP3s and other files are traded.

In our testing, we found the complete lack of documentation slightly offputting, to say the least.

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It's pretty clear that without some method of compensating copyright holders and content providers for free downloads, file sharing services will continue to find themselves in hot water.

One of the first applications to take a step in this direction, open-source MojoNation is billed by it's creators, Autonomous Zone Industries, as a sort of Napster meets EBay.

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Middle of the Pack - Songspy

By the standards of behemoths like Napster and Gnutella, SongSpy is not exactly what you'd call wildly popular. A proud notice on the company's web site informs visitors that the program has just shattered its own record by having 3,000 people online at one time.

The highlight here - a slicker than thou interface.

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Falling Fast: Scour Exchange

It didn't take long for legal action by the Entertainment Industry to drive out of business. What had been one of the most popular multimedia swapping services shut down in November. Centerspan communications picked up the remains at a bargain basement price and the video fans moved on to Gnutella.

Centerspan recently announced it is looking for people to beta test a new, label-friendly, *secure* version of the application. Could be a fun way to kill, or at least temporarily occupy, a few brain cells.

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The Future
of Free Music? OpenNap

A lot of people think it's all over for Napster users if the courts order the file sharing company to shut down its servers.

They're wrong. At least, for the short term. It won't be long before somebody figures out a hack that lets all those millions of copies of the Napster client connect to OpenNap.

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Gnutella for Dummies? Geniuses?

This Saratoga, California based startup is betting that a lot of people will be moving to Gnutella in the not-so distant future. They may well be right. If they are, and if the company succeeds in accomplishing its stated goal of creating a user-friendly gnutella clone - Newtella may be a name you'll hearing a lot more often.

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Backing Down? CuteMx

It took all of five seconds after Judge Patel issued her injunction against Napster for San Antonio based Globalscape, the company that produces the popular CuteFtp, to wave the white flag and suspend service.

CuteMx recently relaunched with a revised service which allows users to share and download music, video and images. We'll be updating our review with more information as soon as possible.

The results of our early testing were not encouraging, however.


Napster for the Mac. Similar results, although in some cases users have been heard complaining about uneven performance. Recently absorbed by Napster, this client is now available from the official Napster site.


As if anybody under the age of seventy-five had problems finding porn on the Net. A system that lets you completely avoid porn - now that would be worth sharing.

Actually, we thought they were dead.... Tapster

File sharing parody by Spinal Tap, the mythical English rock band made famous by the brilliant 1983 spoof poking fun at the rock and roll lifestyle, pretentious rock lyrics and just about everything else in between.

Presumably because the original Spinal Tap soundtrack, which contains such underground classics as Sex Farm, Listen to the Flower People and Hell Hole was already widely available on Napster, the band has made many tracks from the soundtrack available for free download at the site.

Hmmm...There must be some way we can work in an exploding drummer gag here...

An interesting combination of form and function, Riffshare, produced by Santa Barbara-based Widgetlab will let you do a couple of things and do them fairly well. First and most importantly, you'll be able to share files and playlists with other RiffShare users on a local area network (LAN). You'll also be able to organize and play your MP3s in a pretty cool integrated juke box.


See Also:
Master Napster - the netwebly guide to napster

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