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File-Sharing Winners and Losers of 2005
December 24, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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The year 2005 was an excellent year, depending of course on your point of view. For the tech industry, BitTorrent soared to new heights while Steve Jobs enjoyed record breaking iPod sales. Yet not everyone shared this success. The RIAA continued its fight against P2P networking with little effect, as Sony-BMG disgraced itself and the DRM concept.


BitTorrent - There is little doubt BitTorrent has emerged as the quintessential file-sharing protocol in 2005. Estimates on its size are staggering – anywhere from 60%-90% of a ISPs bandwidth is consumed by this protocol. In addition, it’s suggested that up to 10 million individuals are transferring files via the BitTorrent protocol at any given moment.

BitTorrent has emerged as a legitimate distribution source as well. Being a highly efficient protocol for the distribution large files, it has become a popular method for distributing the Linux operating system and authorized multimedia entertainment.

Apple Computers, Inc. – Apple has managed to resurrect itself despite the overwhelming PC market. But Steve Job’s success isn’t attributed to a more practically priced Mac. Instead, Steve Jobs can thank the iPod. After selling over 30 million units, it has become nearly synonymous with the term “MP3 Player.”

Several variants of the iPod; the iPod Nano, the iPod Shuffle, and the new video iPod, have helped Apple once again become a house hold name. The residual effects of the iPod success story have helped Apple add 1 million Mac users, while doubling its stock value from $34 a share in January to $74 at close of business yesterday.

LimeWire – There was a time when the Gnutella network was little more than a running joke in the P2P world. The network was largely inefficient, file transfers were slow, and resources were scant. But then the remarkable happened. Led by the developmental efforts of Limewire and BearShare, the old problems associated with this network were swept away paving the way for the Gnutella resurrection.

Limewire has since remained at the forefront of Gnutella development and has quickly become the mainstream P2P program of choice. However unlike Kazaa, Limewire is highly respected among new comers and hard core file-sharers alike. Although Limewire’s network crawler estimates over 2 million connected users (a majority of which are Limewire clients), the number is suspected of being much higher – perhaps exceeding 5 million.

Open Source P2P – On September 13th, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) sent approximately seven ‘cease and desist’ letters to various commercial P2P developers. The letters demanded they impede the infringing activities of their users or face litigation.

Limewire, BearShare, MetaMachine (eDonkey), WinMX, and Ares Galaxy are believed to be among those contacted by the RIAA. The reaction varied among each developer. BearShare closed its forums and hasn’t released another version since September. WinMX completely shut down its operation. MetaMachine “threw in the towel.”

While the effort appears to have stifled commercial development of file-sharing, it served only encourage open source development.

Because of Limewire’s open source nature, development continues unabated. Even if Limewire institutes the anticipated DRM version, or shuts down completely, development should prosper without consequence. Limewire development is a community affair that exists outside the mere confines of a corporate office. The result of this community effort has spawned the popular Frostwire variant that likewise is built upon the same open source principles.

Although it’s doubtful we’ll ever see another official eDonkey client, eMule and its variants continue to evolve. Already controlling over 90% of the network, open source eDonkey2000 applications have made MetaMachine irrelevant. If you’re worried about eMule, don’t. Considering it’s an already stable client, development has always been on the slow side. Yet to sooth any concerns, an eMule developer recently told, “Development goes forward normally, and a new version will be released eventually.”

The story is similar for BitTorrent as well. Built on similar principles as Gnutella, BitTorrent is the very definition of a free community. Dozens of open source clients are regularly updated, and of course the protocol is free for anyone to examine.

At the end of 2005, 4 of the 5 largest communities – BitTorrent, eDoneky2000, Gnutella, and Ares Galaxy – are all open source.

ThePirateBay – With 836,879 registered users, 2,451,086 peers and 113,419 tracked torrents, has become the most popular BitTorrent indexing site. Its ever expanding server farm helps millions of individuals share information, and the fact it resides in the BitTorrent friendly country of Sweden has allowed this tracker to remain intact.

ThePirateBay has grown in notoriety as being clearly defiant of any kind of copyright enforcement. The site’s administrator, Anakata, has become well known for his handling of DMCA and other copyright violation notices. From its early days in mid-2004, when it only served 6750 torrents and 156389 peers, has become a leader in this community.


RIAA – The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) wasn’t without its fair share of successes in 2005. As a co-plaintiff in the Grokster vs. MGM lawsuit, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower courts and ruled this file-sharing company could be sued.

But what good is a Supreme Court victory if you can’t enforce it? January 2005 began with 8.4 million calculable P2P users. By June, this number had grown to 8.9 million. Today, it resides at 9.4 million users (without including BitTorrent users), with no slowdown in sight.

It’s become apparent the RIAA’s lawsuits, whether against individuals or file-sharing developers, are having the exact opposite effect on the exchange of information. Adding to the RIAA’s woes, the authorized digital music market is showing signs that it is not the silver bullet the record labels hoped it would be. Indeed, music sales have stagnated going into the fourth quarter of 2005.

With more people using P2P and file-sharing technology, while fewer are buying into digital music services, it’s clear the RIAA is running a broken machine. Cary Sherman, President of the RIAA, simply appears out of touch when he gave his interpretation of the exponential growth of P2P.

“There's a lot of conflicting data about the level of p2p file sharing. It's not easy to monitor what is actually happening on the Internet, so I guess it's not surprising that the data would be inconsistent. We've seen data that shows that file-sharing has remained relatively flat, and some that shows growth, but at far lower than the rate it was growing before the lawsuits. And relative to broadband penetration, which has gone way up, file-sharing has been either level or gone up only slightly.”

At least the MPAA’s Dean Garfield admits if recent reports are indeed true, the movie industry doesn’t have a grip on the situation at hand. The music industry on the other hand must find a new way of dealing with the information age if it ever hopes to turn the tide of Internet piracy.

Sony-BMG – "Most people, I think, don't even know what a Rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"

Remember those words? They’re true. Most people didn’t know what a rootkit was. But Sony-BMG gave us all an excellent education on rootkits, spyware, and Digital Rights Management.

Sony-BMG’s XCP (Extended Copy Protection), designed by First4Internet, is a DRM scheme that prevents individuals from copying unlimited CDs. If an individual is unfortunate enough to have auto run enabled and agrees to the EULA, the XCP CD installs the DRM software. The only problem is the EULA doesn’t include all the specifics. It doesn’t state the DRM would be hidden on one’s machine, and it doesn’t articulate its removal process. In addition, those who are able to remove this software run the risk of damaging their machine. It’s also discovered that Sony-BMG’s proprietary music player “phones home” with information.

Not only did Sony-BMG break the trust with the consumer, it was discovered their copy protection scheme could be easily exploited by a malicious individual. Quite simply, the individual could name a virus identically to the XCP copy protection files. Since a rootkit file or folder is hidden by its very nature, most anti virus or spyware applications would be unable to discover the virus. It was soon discovered that Sony’s other copy protection software, Media Maxx, created by SunnComm, also suffered from easily exploitable vulnerabilities.

Sony-BMG has since been sued by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott under the states new spyware law. The state of Texas finds that Sony-BMG used deceptive trade practices when they distributed CDs with MediaMax and XCP software.

Because of Sony-BMG’s fiasco, the future of the DRM has been cast into doubt and destroyed any credible argument against online piracy. Most of all, they betrayed the consumer.

Sharman Networks – Despite a few serendipitous courtroom battle victories, Sharman Networks is in serious trouble. It has managed to stay afloat thanks to a serious blunder by an ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) lawyer, who gave Sharman Networks the leverage needed to maintain their business model until at least February.

Although Sharman Networks is superficially polar opposites from the RIAA, they actually have a lot in common. Perhaps most notably, Sharman Networks is also running a broken machine.

Marginally surviving off a network that has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction in 2002, FastTrack is a primordial swamp of malware, spyware, viruses, Trojans, and other undesirable third party software. In fact, a recent study estimated that 50% of all files on the FastTrack network are corrupt in some way.

Although FastTrack has enough internal strength to pull itself together, it simply doesn't have the technical ability to do so. Expect the ARIA to regroup in 2006 and finally do away with Sharman Networks.

Grokster – Grokster has always been the one of the most recognizable losers of the file-sharing world. Throughout its existence, it was infamous for its third party software – a malicious cocktail of crippling spyware and adware.

The inclusion of third party software made Grokster virtually unusable. The amount of pop-ups, subversive programs, and other resource sapping malignancies created a hostile computer environment – a problem only solvable by reformatting.

This menace was finally taken out of its misery on November 7th. A result of the Supreme Court ruling on June 27th, the Grokster P2P client was forever removed from Topping off its unfortunate existence, the music and movie industry forced Grokster into a $50 million settlement, ensuring its banishment from the P2P world.

Pay P2P – PeerImpact, iMesh, Altnet. Along the way, someone got the brilliant idea to create a pay P2P network. But they left out one key ingredient in the thought process. If people aren’t willing to spend money in the record stores, why would they spend it online? And furthermore, why on Earth would they spend money to download from a P2P network when free communities are profuse? There’s an old saying that there’s a sucker born every minute, and perhaps pay P2P networks prove that. Yet for the most part, pay P2P is a dismal failure compared to more intelligently marketed pay download sources such as iTunes.

Pay P2P is a doomed industry (where’s MashBoxx?) thanks to the Sony-BMG fiasco. People are interested in music that is unencumbered with DRM, not the excuse for digital entertainment masquerading on pay P2P networks.

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

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