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Kazaa - Alone in the World
June 10, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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They say “one” is the loneliest number. Luckily for Sharman Networks, the FastTrack network has nearly 2 million individuals online at any given moment. Slowly, FastTrack’s numbers continue to slide as internal and external forces chip away at the once mighty Kazaa.

At its peak in the summer of 2003, FastTrack was a bustling network of over 4.5 million users. The official Kazaa client produced by Sharman Networks was still disliked by many file-sharers, but this wasn’t a terrible concern. Alternatives such as Kazaa Lite, which greatly enhanced the original product and eliminated third party software, faded any ill-memories of the official Kazaa Media Desktop.

FastTrack’s glory would begin a slow decline that continues to this day. At the time, Kazaa Media Desktop was the most visible and mainstream P2P application, used mostly by file-sharing novices. Unaware the network and its users were about to be pounced by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), thousands of individuals became prime targets for the music industry’s litigation campaign.

Three years and 16,000 lawsuits later, FastTrack is a mere shadow of its former self. With less than 3 million users (and often below 2 million), many file-sharers have learned to keep far away from this network. In addition to the RIAA’s aggressive pursuit of individuals, the network has been cannon fodder for organizations such as MediaDefender and OverPeer that specialized in flooding P2P networks with corrupt files. Although OverPeer has ceased its flooding operations and MediaDefender has been purchased by Artist Direct, the damage has already been done. Because of this interdiction, few knowledgeable file-sharers use this network for their informational needs.

Although the damage to Kazaa and the FastTrack network was extensive, much of the blame from the P2P community was focused at the entertainment industry and its agents. Fair enough. With public support still behind Sharman Networks (if for nothing other than the principle of file-sharing), it was just a matter of upgrading the software to be more resistant to such attacks. But things didn’t quite work out that way.

Instead, Sharman Networks has managed to not only make enemies with the RIAA, CRIA, ARIA and MPAA, but the file-sharing community as well. Its latest foray into gathering distain from the P2P community stems from Sharman Network’s and CEO Nikki Hemming’s decision to sue Jon Newton, editor and chief contributor of p2pnet.net for defamation and libel. Although many file-sharers are uncomfortable supporting p2pnet as the beacon of free speech, the alternative of supporting Sharman Networks is unthinkable – especially when memories of disruptive third party software are still fresh. As a member of the file-sharing community, many are surprised and disgusted that Sharman Networks would resort to similar tactics used against them and their community.

Such is the case for the independent band “Ten Mile Tide.” Ten Mile Tide and Sharman Networks worked together in an effort to demonstrate the P2P technology is used successfully by independent artists. The band claims their efforts have resulted in “Ten Mile Tide” being the most downloaded band on FastTrack.

Reflecting the file-sharing community’s accumulating frustration at Kazaa and Sharman networks; the latest incident with p2pnet.net has proven to be the last straw. The band has announced the dissolution of its relations with Sharman Networks, and condemns the attack on p2pnet.net.

“This new culture of lawsuits in music is disgusting,” says Jason Munning, guitarist and co-founder of Ten Mile Tide. “The RIAA started this sue-your-(helpless)-friends public relations campaign three years ago when it sued individual music lovers and now Nikki Hemming is continuing it.”

As time moves forward, Sharman Network’s list of allies continues to erode. While losing support of Ten Mile Tide gives Sharman a black eye, it lacks the knock-out punch of public humiliation – which could only come if they were banished by the P2P trade organization, the DCIA (Distributed Computing Industry Association.)


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
FastTrack :: Kazaa
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Studies/Research

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