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P2P Population Nears Record High
December 19, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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During the middle part of 2005, the P2P population experienced a slight plateau as it hovered around 9 million total connected users. This plateau also witnessed a slight decline in total P2P users, dropping from a peak of 9.6 million users in August to 9.1 million users in October.

P2P statistical information is gathered by BigChampagne, an emerging leader in gauging the strength of this community (you can read their gathering techniques here.) These statistics are in close parallel with those monitored by In addition, it's noteworthy to mention the approximately 9 million individuals connected to various P2P networks at any given time do not include those participating on BitTorrent. Due to the nature of the BitTorrent community, it's extremely difficult to garner any exact number of total participants.

The temporary plateau and slight decline of the P2P population represents a normal cyclical pattern associated with the file-sharing community. Various reasons, such as returning or departing college students, broadband penetration, computer and MP3 player sales, all have an impact on the strength of the P2P community. While the behavior of these factors may result in a minor decline or stagnation, the overall trend has been unprecedented growth. Indeed, the month of November 2005 represents one of the strongest months yet with a total of 9,465,000 total connected users - third only to August and July with 9,620,000 and 9,496,000 total connected users.

The resuming growth of the P2P population defies the RIAA's lawsuit campaign against individual file-sharers, and more remarkably defies the MGM vs. Grokster decision. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision on June 27th, 2005, the P2P population grew from 8.8 million in June to its present number. This represents the addition of over 500,000 file-sharers. This study further dismisses the NPD Group’s latest P2P research, which found the number of people downloading at least one song on file-sharing networks had declined by 11%. The technology community largely ignored the NPD Group’s study, much like their last one, as it’s information gathering techniques are not consistent with the more realistic habits of file-sharers. (Would you download a song if you were being monitored?)

Another RIAA copyright enforcement tactic these statistics directly confront is the decision to serve commercial P2P developers with cease and desist letters. On September 13, 2005, the RIAA sent several leading commercial P2P developers cease and desist letters, ordering them to prohibit users from infringing on their member's copyrights. Commercial developers responded in various ways, such as WinMX (FrontCode) shutting down, MetaMachine "throwing in the towel", and Ares Galaxy going Open Source. The P2P community responded by continuing their sharing habits unabated.

The RIAA may be winning over the courts and legislators, yet these victories are proving hollow. Their courtroom and legislative successes are yielding little in the way of tangible benefits as the P2P population continues to grow. If there's one message associated with the continued growth of file-sharing, it's that people continue to want unencumbered (DRM–free) access to music. Many have argued that Napster and Rhapsody, and to a lesser extent, iTunes, simply do not provide that.

It’s interesting to note the file-sharing population is continuing to march forward despite the rapid decline of the FastTrack network. As corrupted files and lawsuits continue to plague this network, the P2P population has grown aware of these concerns and taken refuge in a multitude of other communities. Smaller private networks, eDonkey2000, Gnutella, BitTorrent and Ares Galaxy have all benefited from FastTrack’s decline.

Courtroom and legislative successes aside, the statistical news for the entertainment industry has been unfavorable. Last week it was reported that authorized digital music sales stalled for the first time since introduction. Although a minor decline (.49%) from the third quarter, it represents a stagnated authorized digital music industry. Conversely, the P2P population grew by 4% since last month and shows little sign of slowing down. Considering the total number represented by BigChampagne does not include those participating in the BitTorrent community, the total population of 9,496,000 is a very conservative estimate. Judging by the sheer scale of BitTorrent, especially its consumption of over 60% of an ISPs total bandwidth, these days are likely the strongest yet for P2P and the file-sharing community.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Statistics/Analysis

You can read the survey here (Excel format only.)

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