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Morpheus 4.7 - Now With BitTorrent Support
February 10, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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Morpheus has maintained one of the most bizarre existences in the file-sharing world. It first started its existence as an OpenNap network dubbed "MusicCity.” MusicCity ran between 20 and 30 servers and was coexisted briefly with Napster. When Napster was extinguished, MusicCity’s popularity soared. Around the same time MusicCity became one of the leading OpenNap communities, a small network named FastTrack began to make headway in the file-sharing world.

Before its turn to evil, FastTrack was a well respected. Fueling this respect was MusicCity’s transition to a stand-alone client named Morpheus. Morpheus, like its cousin Kazaa, connected to the FastTrack network. However, Morpheus had one key advantage – it did not have the 128 bitrate limit that Kazaa imposed. Kazaa’s imposition did not allow individuals to share or download mp3 files higher than this value. This helped propel Morpheus’ popularity and respect of the file-sharing community.

Several things happened that caused a great reversal of fortune for Morpheus. First, Michael Weiss (the current and former CEO) of StreamCast, along with the original developers, were forced out of the company. Under Steve Griffin’s authority, everything that could go wrong went wrong. Morpheus was kicked off the FastTrack network for reasons that remain unknown, StreamCast was named in a lawsuit by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and poorly implemented the Gnutella protocol as its network of choice. Since Gnutella was not nearly as populated as FastTrack, either by users or files, the user experience of Morpheus fell faster than fat kid on a unicycle. In addition, various and creative implementations of spyware and adware were soon associated with this client.

However, this would slowly begin to change. In mid-2003, StreamCast realized the dire situation they were in and rehired Michael Weiss. In his August 2003 interview with Slyck, Micheal Weiss stated that his top priorities were “to regain the trust of our users and to have all of our former Morpheus users return—along with some new friends that we hope to make during our new quest.”

How far has Morhpheus come along?

Since returning to Morpheus’ helm, the question remain how much has the situation has improved. For starters, StreamCast has won two important legal battles against the RIAA. In addition, the third party software that accompanies Morpheus is easily removed via the “Add/Remove Software” option or by AdAware. Also, Morpheus contests it no longer abuses the networks it connects to, especially Gnutella. Rather, its proprietary “NEOnet” community is now its main focus. This has helped Morpheus crawl out of the basement, however much skepticism still remains. Its decision to be a multi-network client has been meet with mixed results – the more hardcore P2P crowd tends to detest such applications, however more mainstream users find them appealing. Adding to its list of networks comes Morpheus 4.7 – with BitTorrent support.

To get a better understand of where Morpheus is and where it is heading, we spoke with Michael Wiess, CEO and President of StreamCast Networks. Our conversation cover several key points.

Third party advertising, i.e. Adware and Spyware

To provide Morpheus free of charge to users, Morpheus serves banner ads and distributes two pieces of 3rd party software: 1) SeekerBar, a search tool bar from IBIS and 2) DirectPeer, contextual advertising software from Direct Revenue. These are installed with Morpheus, however the user can easily delete these programs using their Windows' Control Panel > ADD/REMOVE programs. For those users not familiar with this, the Morpheus Q&A section walks the user through this.

However, we hope that users do not uninstall this software because it is the revenues we earn from our business partners that help us pay expenses. Not just paying salaries to our employees and developers or rent to the landlord, these revenues help us pay our litigation expenses, for which we have so far been billed in excess of $4 million dollars. It's been far more expensive to go through the US Federal Court system to fight for what you believe is right than what one would imagine or could afford.

Most other companies that have been faced with an onslaught of lawsuits brought by 28 of the most powerful conglomerates in the world have either folded or ran away to different countries. We stood our ground and fought back. Our hard fought and expensive legal victories have benefited the entire community of P2P developers. If StreamCast did not stand in the way of these bullies, others would have fallen by like dominoes.

As Slyck readers will recall, when I was running Morpheus the first time in 2001, I refused to include any bundles whatsoever and the result was that Morpheus grew rapidly to being the #1 software on the Internet with over 24 million unique users-more than Napster and double the size of Kazaa.

Certainly I, more than anyone else, understand that our user base can increase rapidly without bundles.

We will soon be transitioning to a new economic model similar to Overture and Google and expect to reduce our dependency on bundle revenues. But that is in the future, right now we have the biggest legal battle of our lives in front of us-the Supreme Court next month and this revenue is our lifeline. We have kept our bundles to just two and both business partners have altered their software to conform with our strict guidelines and policies, meant to protect users, and as I said, easily removable w/o affecting the performance of Morpheus.

We also offer an ad-free, bundle free Morpheus Ultra for $19.95. It is gaining in popularity and we are grateful for those users showing their financial support to us by either purchasing Morpheus Ultra or choosing not to remove our bundle partners.

His current perspective on Morpheus, how it has improved since his return and its growth

Morpheus has come a long way in the past year while struggling with costly court battles and persevering to now take our case all the way to the Supreme Court. Morpheus has managed to continue to improve and mature Neo Network making it a premiere search engine for our users. On top of that, Morpheus has made great strides in improving the client, improving Gnutella support, integrating BitTorrent, and will soon have a new GUI for our users.

Morpheus has come a long way in the past two years when I resumed as president of the company. When I left Morpheus in 2001, it was #1 and had a great community and the respect of many. When I returned, things were dismal. Morpheus had been kicked off the FastTrack Network and its Gnutella client simply did not work properly. The bundle partners were not bound by the strict guidelines now in place protecting our users and it was forgotten that Morpheus' greatest asset was its users.

At that time, users were Morpheus' only asset because Morpheus did not have its own technology. First it licensed technology from Kazaa (at a time when Kazaa only had 5,000 users) and then used open-source Gnutella technology---which had been poorly implemented. I knew that if Morpheus was ever going to regain its popularity, we had to take control of our own destiny and find the best new technology that could prove to be the next evolution in P2P. It took the better part of two years, and the end result can be seen in NEOnet. We believe P2P technology based on DHT is the future and the quality improves with each release. In addition to implementing NEOnet, Morpheus has made improvements with Gnutella support. Today's Morpheus 4.7 release goes to a new level by integrating BitTorrent searches. Next up is a brand new GUI in Morpheus 5.0, in which users will see a remarkable improvement on both the front and back ends….

His response to criticisms regarding the mis-implementation of multi-network clients

Morpheus focuses on the Neo Network and Gnutella primarily, and now BitTorrent download system integration. All other networks are off by default but made available for users to access at their option. We have been very conservative in all our approaches, we don't feel we damage any network we connect to, even the ones off by default.

We intend to continue our support for Gnutella and won't want to abandon the network that became our safety net after being kicked off FastTrack, however, our emphasis will be on the NEOnet technology and seeing that it continues to get better. As more and more users rely on Morpheus with NEOnet, the connectivity to other networks becomes less important.

There's been a lot of effort put into NEOnet and the soon-to-be-released Morpheus 5 and we know users will respond if the product meets or exceeds their expectations. Certainly, Morpheus has greatly improved as a P2P file sharing client in the past 18 months. The multi-network connectivity kept us competitive as we worked to bring NEOnet to market and we're looking forward to the day Morpheus 5 is unleashed next month. In the end, we are looking for a winning verdict from our users --- this is every bit as important to us as the verdict we get in the Courts or in Congress.

His response to criticisms regarding the purported violation of the GNU Licensing agreement

The creators of the GNU licenses did not intend to prevent or discourage commercial activity. Richard Stallman often says "Free as in freedom, not beer." StreamCast is committed to honoring the licenses of code included in Morpheus. We financially support the development of the open source GnucDNA which in turn is made available freely to the community.

His thoughts on the new BitTorrent integration, and how it strives for BitTorrent decentralization

Morpheus uses the official BitTorrent python implementation, thus compatible with established and recognized implementations of the protocol. Morpheus is committed to remaining compatible with existing BitTorrent clients and has taken a far different approach than eXeem.

…Morpheus lets you efficiently download multiple torrents at once; managing downloads in a smarter way. A key difference in addition to being able to download torrents is the ability to search for torrents. So, not only can you search and download torrent files, search results include up-to-date seeder and leech counts.

For example if no one is seeding a particular torrent anymore, you can tell from the search results -- with no need to engage a download. Websites that host torrent files often have out of date tracker info, and Morpheus provides a solution. When files are added to users share folder the decentralized NEOnet automatically indexes these files, the tracker is checked by the client and information from the tracker used. When a user searches, up-to-date tracker information is shown in the search results.

It's important to note that Morpheus carefully doesn't overload trackers. Even with hundreds of people indexing a particular torrent, the tracker will only host a certain number of bits, without adding any significant extra tracker load. The 'tracker stats' come from NEOnet, and not directly from the tracker with every search.

This is decentralized BitTorrent. Users can search for torrent files and see up to date seeder and leecher counts in search results. Once a user starts the torrent download, existing trackers are used like in other clients.

His motivation for implementing BitTorrent

BitTorrent has proven to be a successful download application, and our user base should be able to harness the power of BitTorrent easily from within Morpheus. Additionally, utilizing Neo Network to allow shared torrent files to be searchable and return information within search results about the content the torrents point to, such as number of seeders and lechers extends the usefulness of BitTorrent in the peer-to-peer searching. There are plans to continue to further improve the integration. Morpheus also allows users to download multiple torrents at the same time, and automatically manages those downloads to maximize download speeds.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
P2P Clients :: Morpheus
BitTorrent :: BitTorrent Clients
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: New Releases

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