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LimeWire Interview
July 19, 2007
Thomas Mennecke
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LimeWire may not share many things with BitTorrent, but what it does share is its widespread recognition. Since Gnutella's inception, LimeWire has transformed a protocol that was left for dead into one of the most important driving forces in the P2P industry today. With well over 5 million simultaneous users and a household name status, LimeWire appeals to a wide variety of music enthusiasts looking to discover new music, share creative commons work, and expand the open source community.

Yet the hordes of LimeWire fans are nevertheless concerned about the fate of their favorite P2P client, as like many other file-sharing companies, LimeWire has been vigorously pursued by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). Such a pursuit would normally cause most other North American based P2P companies like BearShare, Groktser or WinMX to fold. Instead, LimeWire has hung tough, drawing on its considerable wealth to hold off the entertainment industry while simultaneously continuing work on its Gnutella client.

And despite the litigation that looms, progress is moving forward on the next iteration of LimeWire. There are some interesting developments, from the “Mojito DHT”, to its integration with BitTorrent, its DRM-free music store, commitment to the open source movement, and its confidence against the RIAA. The LimeWire staff broke its usual silence and agreed to a limited interview with Slyck.com.

Slyck.com: What is the current "State of the Union" of LimeWire?

LimeWire: LimeWire is stronger than ever. We're moving the technology of peer-to-peer forward with BitTorrent integration and the Mojito DHT. We've started a blog, online at blog.limewire.com, to cover new and exciting music in New York City and beyond; expect that to grow along several dimensions. We continue to offer free authorized content on MagnetMix.com, and are opening a music store to sell authorized content. We're dealing with the lawsuit day-by-day. I hope we can talk more about each of these things now, and in the coming months.

We began programming LimeWire with the belief that peer-to-peer would become one of the core distribution tools of the Internet. Six years later, it's happened. LimeWire has myriad non-infringing uses. It can reliably deliver large files without the bandwidth costs of a centralized server. It accelerates Web downloads with magnet links. Peer-to-peer isn't going away--it's become mainstream, both in the underlying technology of the Internet, and in the everyday tool set of millions of users online.

Slyck.com: Many are concerned about the ongoing litigation between LimeWire and the music industry. If possible, could you tell us if any progress been made in resolving this conflict?

LimeWire: I'd like to comment on the litigation, but, as you suggest, I'm sorry that I can't. What I can say is that, although the lawsuit is unfortunate, we're confident in our position and optimistic about the eventual outcome.

We're most interested in ending this destructive conflict. What's happening in peer-to-peer and at LimeWire right now represents a unique opportunity for the record industry, and I think some people in their organizations can see this.

This doesn't mean shutting down. The record industry has a good track record of shutting down peer-to peer providers, closing Napster, Aimster, Grokster, iMesh, BearShare, eDonkey, WinMX, i2hub and others. This has done nothing to reduce overall peer-to-peer use, however. Shutting down one service merely fragments and shifts the user base to other services. Many now are overseas, open source, and don't even exist as a business entity. Tens of thousands of lawsuits against individuals haven't slowed the adoption curve of peer-to-peer, either. They've only alienated the fan base. The music industry must find a way to reach and embrace these music consumers. Litigation isn't a good digital business model.

It also doesn't mean selling out. The record industry's recent experiment with iMesh demonstrated that quickly forcing a user base of any size to a fundamentally different service doesn't work. Prior experiments with Napster and eDonkey showed that hard filtering scatters users just as quickly. The solution must preserve the core user experience.

Through all this, peer-to-peer continues to grow. None of the tumult of the industry, none of the shutdowns, none of the conversion plans, none of the filtering, not lawsuit upon lawsuit upon lawsuit, have shaken that growth curve. In the end, it is the users--not the music industry, not LimeWire, and not the courts--who will determine what works and what doesn't. The users are in control. The music industry needs to work to understand and monetize peer-to-peer consumer behavior, not block it.

This means beginning a process of market experimentation. It means working together to build the future that's going to come whether we build it now, or others build it later: a future that includes peer-to-peer and commercial services, and keeps the user in control.

Slyck.com: When will we see LimeWire open an authorized music store?

Lime Wire: We're building an online store to sell authorized media downloads. It will beta this fall and open in time for the holiday season. The LimeWire Store will be available from within the LimeWire program and on the Web. Search and download for the store will be centralized, not peer-to-peer. There won't be any DRM.

Slyck.com: What impact will an authorized LimeWire music store have on the original LimeWire experience?

LimeWire: Our plan with the LimeWire Store is to add to the LimeWire experience--we're not going to take anything away. We think purchase links should appear alongside Gnutella search results, similar to how Google keeps sponsored links separate. We believe a significant number of users will choose to purchase content if the presentation is convenient and unobtrusive, the price is right, and the product isn't hindered by DRM.

Slyck.com: Could you justify LimeWire's wealth at the expense of free file-sharing, especially considering the comparatively limited number of "Pro" purchases used to access authorized content?

LimeWire: LimeWire's core business is selling software. We distribute a free version of our peer-to-peer file sharing software, and offer users the opportunity to purchase an upgraded version with more features, better performance, and customer support.

We're profitable and, most importantly, this has enabled us to continue our professional software development. As well, it allows us to put up the legal defense that we, our users, and peer-to-peer deserve.

Slyck.com: Tell us about version 5.0. What innovative and ground breaking features will users have to look forward to?

LimeWire: A Gnutella program connects to peers randomly, and broadcasts searches into its neighborhood. It can't find a file outside this neighborhood. Enter the Mojito DHT, a revolutionary new technology we've developed for LimeWire. In a distributed hash table like Mojito, the peers don't connect randomly--they organize themselves into a navigable tree. Imagine one computer has the only copy of a rare file, and another on the far side of the network wants it. With Mojito, they'll be able to find each other.

Previous versions of LimeWire have been Gnutella programs. Moving forward, LimeWire will be a Gnutella and BitTorrent program. You'll be able to search, download, and share files on Gnutella, and download and share torrents, all together, and all at once. At the core, LimeWire isn't a Gnutella software project, it's a peer-to-peer software project. Including support for BitTorrent is the next logical step in LimeWire's evolution forward.

Gnutella and BitTorrent are perfect compliments for each other. Gnutella has had a 2 GB file size limit, while BitTorrent excels at delivering truly enormous files. BitTorrent doesn't include search, relying on centralized Web sites, while Gnutella's distributed search has no single point of failure. Combine the two, and you could get the best of both worlds. We're just starting to explore what we can make mixing them together.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Interviews
P2P Clients :: LimeWire

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