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P2P Wrap-up for 2005
December 29, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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File-sharing in 2005 distinguished itself from previous years as it saw less influence from commercial developers and greater engagement from its community. Precipitated by the entertainment industry’s pursuit and subjugation of corporate P2P entities such as BitTorrent, MetaMachine, FrontCode, Limewire and FreePeers, grass root efforts picked up where commercialism failed. It brought about the resurrection of WinMX, the continuation of LimeWire and the furtherance of BitTorrent.

January

Events from December 2004 were still flowing over to 2005. Topping the headlines in January was the fallout from the MPAA’s global campaign against BitTorrent indexing sites. One site in particular, LokiTorrent.com, attempted to fight the MPAA by raising enough capital through an aggressive fundraising campaign. The financial goal of $30,000.00 was reached on January 3rd.

Despite the loss of many popular torrent sites such as Youceff Torrents, Phoenix Torrents, and Suprnova, the BitTorrent community does not appear deterred. A new breed of torrent indexing sites, led by newcomer ThePirateBay.org, continues where the last generation leaves off.

While Suprnova.org is dead, Sloncek’s alter-ego project eXeem is still in development. Like many proprietary P2P projects, eXeem is fitted with third party software. In eXeem’s case, Cydoor accompanies the application. Although the official eXeem client is not released until January 21st, eXeem Light is released on January 20th.

Almost two months after the MPAA’s global crackdown on BitTorrent sites, Internet traffic monitoring firms BigChampagne and CacheLogic both confirm this community continues to grow – both in terms of bandwidth consumption and tracking sites.

February

Sharman Networks, the owners of the FastTrack network and the Kazaa file-sharing client, is still battling the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) in court. During the course of the trial, over 30 internal documents from Sharman Networks are leaked. One document in particular, authored by CTO Phil Morle, recognizes that Kazaa is falling seriously behind technologically from its competition.

“Our competitors (notably eDonkey and Morpheus) are taking risks legally, but delivering compelling consumer solutions. We need confidence in what we do and must take similar leaps of faith. eDonkey is not yet being sued and is in a strong position to out-innovate us.”

Foreshadowing Gnutella’s future, Limewire becomes the top download on Download.com. Already a popular file-sharing application, Limewire is noted for its ease of use, open source nature and lack of third party software. Think of it as the antithesis of Kazaa.

Following up on the BitTorrent situation, Snarf-it.org goes live on February 5th. Snarf-it.org is not a tracker, but lists torrents from a multitude of indexing sites.

eXeem, under intense pressure from the P2P community, drops Cydoor. Unfortunately for Sloncek and eXeem, the damage has already been done, and the project never recovers.

Most of the news coming from the BitTorrent community at this point is good – ThePirateBay.org appears to be the successor to Suprnova, traffic continues unabated, and new torrent sites continue to pop up. However the LokiTorrent situation takes a turn for the worst. At this point, LokiTorrent had raised over $40,000.00 – most if it donated from it’s members. Yet this money will not be used to fight the MPAA. Instead, on February 10th, LokiTorrent owner Ed Webber capitulates to the MPAA, shutting LokiTorrent down and turning over the entire database to the entertainment industry. To say the least, his community feels abandoned, rejected and betrayed.

On February 15th, BitTorrent trackers UK-Torrents.com and Torrenz.com both close their doors. UK-Torrents will never return, but Torrenz.com eventually reemerges as a BitTorrent search engine.

Under pressure from the IFPI (International Federation Phonographic Industry) Russian prosecutors begin to probe AllofMP3.com. The site offers very low cost music downloads in a variety of formats, such as MP3 and OGG. AllofMP3.com also offers these files without any kind of DRM – leaving the consumer to download and burn as much or as little as he or she wishes. Since downloads only cost 5 cents, the IFPI is certain AllofMP3 is illegally promoting its business without paying proper royalties.

March

March starts off with a new study released by Ipsos-Insight which revealed a majority of the world’s Internet population connects by broadband. With DSL prices considerably lower than Cable, DSL is the current leader in the broadband market. DSL’s reign should continue, as emerging dial-up markets already have DSL infrastructure (copper telephone wire) in place.

On March 4th Russian prosecutors are unable to find any evidence against AllofMP3.com. This is largely due to the fact that Russia’s outdated copyright laws have no verbiage on digital media distribution.

The RIAA released its end of the year statistics for 2004. There was limited optimism, as CD shipments (from manufacturers to stores) had increased by 5.3%, equaling a 2.7% increase in value from 2003. Yet compared with 1999, total shipments are still down a staggering 21%, while over 40 million fewer CDs were sold.

Kazaa continues its downward spiral, as the research firm Media Metrix found that traffic to Kazaa.com had fallen by 71% since February 2004. Conversely, Media Metrix found that traffic to Limewire.com had increased by a staggering 1876% since 2004.



April

Although a slow month, April was not without its notable events.

The Ares Galaxy connection problem appears to have been resolved, the result of many sleepless nights by sole programmer Alberto Treves. Those still using older version of the Ares client are informed they must upgrade to the latest version in order to take advantage of the network improvements

Perhaps a keen insight into why iTunes is the dominant authorized music service, a new study by Ipsos-Insight discovers that most people prefer “pay per download” over renting music. The study presented three methods for collecting music, 1) a P2P network, 2) a pay per download service such as iTunes, or 3) an all you can download rental service such as Napster to Go. The results? 62% preferred P2P, 24% favored iTunes and only 5% though Napster was the ace of base.

On April 13th, the RIAA expanded its enforcement crusade against the P2P population, this time targeting the Internet2 population. Over 405 students, mostly using the Internet2 only file-sharing application i2hub, have John Doe lawsuits filed against them. Because of its incredibly fast speed, the educational and experimental network has become an alluring siren for P2P activity.

The on again, off again BitTorrent tracker TvTorrents finally ends the indexing of torrent files on April 21st. After nearly a year of fluctuating between online and off, it appears the site’s administrator has been litigated by an unknown source.

May

As the spring time approaches, things begin to heat up in the file-sharing world.

On May 1st, Slyck.com published a news story that gives some perspective into why the RIAA’s lawsuits are having little effect on the P2P populace. Depending on which network and individual uses to download music, the odds of being litigated differed greatly. If an individual uses a variety networks (including FastTrack), the odds of being sued were 1 in 1,840. If FastTrack was taken out of the equation, the odds increase to 1 in 45,977 – approximately the same odds as dying in a car accident in a given year.

Azureus, a popular BitTorrent client, ushers in the next generation of torrent clients on May 3rd. The latest version of Azureus introduces a DHT layer, or Distributed Hash Table. This network layer works along side the BitTorrent protocol. The DHT layer creates a network layer where all clients help index torrents and facilitate communications. This is particularly useful when a tracker goes offline. If this happens, the client can still communicate through the DHT network and find more peers to help maintain the swarm.

Six TV BitTorrent sites come under attack by the MPAA on May 12th. The decision to go after TV BitTorrent trackers marks a change in tactics, as the MPAA typically purses movie indexing sites. However, many of the MPAA’s members also have financial interests in television as well. Shuntv.net, Zonatracker.com, Btefnet.net, Scifi-classics.net, Cddvdheaven.co.uk and Bragginrights.biz, all fall within a few days of the MPAA’s threatened lawsuits.

Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, is prereleased several hours before its Memorial Day theatrical debut. The movie was initially released via FTP (File Transfer Protocol), where it eventually makes its way to the Newsgroups. From there it progresses to BitTorrent and to the rest of the P2P community. The copy is a “work print” – and despite a counter on top of the movie, the prerelease is reported to be of excellent quality.

Bram Cohen releases a new version of his official BitTorrent client with DHT support. However, the network is not compatible with Azureus’ and is considered a superior implementation. The Mainline DHT network is quickly adopted by other BitTorrent clients such as BitComet and later uTorrent.

EliteTorrents.org, a large and very popular BitTorrent tracking site, is shut down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.) On May 24th, the EliteTorrents homepage was replaced with an amateurish looking enforcement notice, stating the following:

"This Site [EliteTorrents.org] has been permanently shut down by the Federal bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement"

"The individuals involved in the operation and use of Elite Torrents network are under investigation for criminal copyright infringement"

It was initially believed the site was merely hacked considering the slipshod nature of the enforcement notice. However, a subsequent press release from the FBI and ICE would confirm suspicions, as 10 search warrants were executed throughout the United States.

EliteTorrents.org would be the last American based BitTorrent tracker.

June

With the closure of EliteTorrents.org, the BitTorrent world is on edge. News from ThePirateBay.org only adds to the angst.

On June 1st, ThePirateBay.org announced that enforcement action had been taken against the site, and would shut down.

"Today the Swedish anti-piracy organizations raided The Pirate Bay and confiscated the computers running the tracker. This probably means the end of The Pirate Bay and we, the crew, apologize for all loss of income caused by our activity over the years."

The notice, unlike EliteTorrents.org, would prove to be a hoax. The faux enforcement notice proves be a publicity stunt surrounding the release of their new portal and server equipment. With a cleaner layout and Google-like search interface, ThePirateBay.org is well on its way to becoming the definitive BitTorrent tracker.

June may have started positive, yet the ending was not. On June 27th, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision remands the MGM vs. Grokster case to the lower courts. In addition, the court rules that Grokster could be sued for copyright infringement.

This decision is not necessarily an absolute victory for music and movie industries, however. The ruling only holds developers liable for copyright infringement if they actively encourage their users to do so – which the Supreme Court found Grokster did. This does not stop the RIAA from using their newfound ammo to launch campaigns against commercial developers.

July

When the summer months roll through, we typically see a decline in P2P and file-sharing traffic. There are many reasons to justify this decline, such as college students returning home or simply more people spending time outside rather than hunched over a computer.

With the recent Supreme Court decision that handed a victory to MGM over Grokster, one may think this concept would hold exceptionally true. Yet this victory might as well have happed on the far moon of Endor, as the P2P population actually managed to increase. According to P2P tracking firm BigChampagne on July 10, the number of users connected to P2P networks at any given time was approximately 8,888,436 in June – up from 8,665,319 in May.

It’s suspected the ruling against Grokster actually managed to bring more attention to P2P and file-sharing, instead of driving it away.

On July 10, the MP3 format celebrates its 10th year anniversary. Created by Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, development actually began on this audio compression standard in 1988. Although never intended for mass Internet distribution, the MP3 standard offered superior audio compression with negligible loss in quality. Reducing a monstrous 50 megabyte WAV file to a marginal 5 megabyte MP3 file would have profound implications for the online world. Only 4 years after its Internet debut, the overwhelming demand for MP3 files would force the creation of P2P networks such as Napster, Gnutella and FastTrack.

Despite the advent of other audio files such as the unfortunately named Ogg Vorbis format, the MP3 format remains the unrivaled standard.



August

Much like the summer’s beginning, numbers available in August once again show the P2P population continues to grow. In fact, July 2005 breaks the record for the most P2P users online. BigChampagne reveals that 9,496,203 individuals are now participating in P2P activity, a gain of nearly 500,000 from June.

CacheLogic releases a controversial study on August 10 that states eDonkey2000 is now the preferred method of video distribution, dethroning BitTorrent. The study, which was conducted from July 16-17 on major global ISP backbones, found that by bandwidth volume (not by total number of files), videos and movies were the most frequently traded file format. By sheer number, music files are still the most sought after file type. These findings remain hotly contested, as many claim that BitTorrent is still the preferred choice for video/movie distribution.

Disheartening news is learned on August 17, as the homepage of DVD Shrink declared "The (only) **Official** DVDShrink Site IS NO MORE!" DVD Shrink is a wildly popular utility used to compress large DV9 (9 gigabyte DVDs) to 4.5 gigabyte DVD-Rs. Although the news is disappointing, the program has not been updated for more than a year. In addition, the program continues to be available through other websites. Conspiracy theorists also have fun with the bizarre similarities and functionalities of DVD Shrink with Nero Recode.

August ends with both negative and positive news, as the MPAA forces TheRealWorld.de to remove its eDonkey2000 links. TheRealWorld (TRW) was a popular eDonkey2000 indexing site, well known for its collection of TV show links. Despite the loss of (TRW), the remaining eDonkey2000 indexing sites indicate they will remain online.

September

The long awaited Sharman Networks vs. the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association of America) decision was finally rendered by Judge Murray Wilcox on September 5th. To the dismay of Sharman, Judge Wilcox found that Sharman Networks authorized users to infringe on the copyrights of ARIA members. Through subversive advertising, with statements such as “join the revolution”, Judge Wilcox found that Sharman encouraged its users to violate ARIA member’s copyrights.

The news isn’t completely bad for Sharman Networks. Judge Wilcox is not looking to destroy Sharman, and wants to encourage the company to develop a viable authorized music service. He issues an order for Sharman to add a copyright filter to the Kazaa client. He stays the order for a period of two months, in which time the two sides must come together and agree on a viable filtration technology.

On September 13, the RIAA sent out several cease and desist letters to various P2P developers. Limewire, MetaMachine (eDonkey), BearShare, Ares Galaxy, WinMX, I2Hub are believed to have received the notification. The letter requests the following:

"We demand that you immediately cease-and-desist from enabling and inducing the infringement of RIAA member sound recordings. If you wish to discuss pre-litigation resolution of these claims against you, please contact us immediately."

Ares Galaxy joins the open source heard on September 15th. Possible recipients of the RIAA’s cease and desist letter, Ares Galaxy chooses to release its program to the open source movement rather than capitulate to the RIAA’s demands.

The C&D letters reach their dramatic climax when on September 21, the WinMX network ceases to exist – at least for two days. Long thought to be a dead network with few in numbers, various file-sharing forums witness unprecedented traffic from WinMX users desperate for answers. Unfortunately, there is no warning or notice from Frontcode Technologies. Yet Frontcode’s silence is to be expected, as years have passed with no appreciable enhancements to the WinMX client or network.

WinMX’s shutdown would prove temporary however. In order for the client to connect to the network, it must receive a fresh list of supernodes from Frontcode’s gateway server. With WinMX.com offline, this is not possible. However, a clever workaround is established, whereby an altered hosts list is downloaded and reroutes the connection from WinMX.com to an alternative gateway server. The WinMX network is back online within days.



October

October started more with a bang than a whimper, as the RIAA announced they had demanded settlement from 757 users – mostly students - of the I2PHub.

Sales of physical media dropped by 1.9% in favor of downloaded media, with particularly heavy reductions in CD sales and with continued pressure from the music industry on iTunes to increase the cost of their $0.99 a download policy. According to the IFPI, download sales increased from US$220M for the first half of 2004 to US$790M for the same period in 2005, accounting for an impressive 6% of total.

Mounting international pressures tried to force the US to relinquish control over ICANN and threatened a major rift at the Geneva World Summit of the Information Society, with the EU backing a move to UN control despite fierce opposition from the US. Leaving matters to be concluded at their next meeting in Tunis, it was subsequently decided to leave things much as they were for the time being.

Slyck reported an attempt by the Swedish Antipiratbyrån(APB) to set a precedent against a file-sharer allegedly using Direct Connect, and the arrest of careless US based DC Hub operator Jed Cobles .

Following the action against Kazaa, it was reported that Limewire was fast emerging as a popular replacement.

Apple heralds the success of their selling 1m video tracks over their first 20 days, helping to consolidate their new position in the world’s top 10 music retailers

Widespread rumors of intended legal action against Dutch based indexing sites by BREIN, many operators such as the popular Snarf-It and Newzmonster part company with Holland in favor of safer havens.

October also saw a very public demonstration against DRM by the Free Culture Organisation, ably coordinated by New York University. This action helped to raise public awareness of the existence of DRM, which proved timely given subsequent disclosures over Sony

November

The month of November was largely dominated by news of the Sony spyware fiasco, in which it had been discovered that they had been incorporating rootkits on CDs and exposing customers to serious security risks. On November 2nd, Sony responded by announcing a fix to remove this cloaked DRM from user’s machines.

Subsequently identified as both spyware and a Trojan by Consumer Associates and accompanied by announcements of class action lawsuits against Sony, it transpired that the fix distributed by Sony still left users highly vulnerable. In the 16 days it took Sony to withdraw all XCP software – as it was known – the value of Sony stock tumbled and public awareness of the restrictive nature of DRM was raised to an all time high. Ultimately this was to result in Sony achieving in 16 days what the combined forces of the P2P world had worked four years to achieve.

November 14th saw the implementation of legislation forcing US ISPs and Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, companies to include backdoors allowing police and many other enforcement agencies to directly eavesdrop on their customers by April 2007. This announcement came on top of similar European proposals to force ISP’s to retain data for between 12 – 24 months and telephone companies for 6 months for disclosure in the investigation of serious crime.

November also saw the much expected closure of the I2P Hub and the generally welcome closure of the spyware/adware ridden FastTack client Grokster as well as an extension in the ongoing Kazaa case on technical grounds. Of greater significance, November also saw the launch of the now DHT compatible and remarkably code efficient µTorrent.

In a much trumpeted announcement by the MPAA, Bram Cohen publicly declared his intentions to follow the party line by endeavoring to eliminate results which include copyright infringing material from the search engine of his own site.

December

Whether technologically incompetent or legally brilliant, Sharman Networks does not expand its existing word filter as expected. Order number five from Judge Murray Wilcox had asked Sharman Networks to release a new client with a viable word filter by November 5th, but had been extended to December 5th. At the stroke of midnight, Sharman Networks instead blocks Australian users from accessing the Kazaa.com homepage. Sharman believes this keeps them in compliance with order four, which asked Sharman to prohibit the infringing activities of its users.

The ARIA is furious, and later files contempt charges against Sharman Networks.

Just when everyone thought the Sony-BMG debacle was over... Sony-BMG released a series of patches, which were designed to fix the security vulnerabilities in their XCP copy protected CDs. It was then discovered these patches left just as large a security hole as they patched. The story was no different for their MediaMaxx CDs created by SunnComm. On December 7th, Sony-BMG released a patch that was designed to repair the vulnerability left by the MediaMaxx technology. And much like their XCP disaster, the new patch left the unfortunate individual just as vulnerable.

January 2005 began with 8.4 million individuals connected to various P2P networks at any given time. Despite 8,559 “John Doe” lawsuits, MGM’s victory over Grokster, the fall of i2Hub, the demise of commercial P2P, and the union of Bram Cohen and the MPAA, the P2P population managed to expand by 1.1 million individuals in 2005. The great variable – BitTorrent - is not so easily calculable, leaving many to speculate how enormous the file-sharing community truly is, and how much it will grow in 2006.


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

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