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iMesh: The Winds of Change
October 25, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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iMesh began its life as the runt of the P2P litter. Although this P2P client existed during the high times of Napster, it managed to find itself a niche within this Fanning-dominated market.

How could a P2P client that was known as little more than a black sheep manage to survive in a world controlled by Napster and Scour Exchange? iMesh brought three innovative features to the P2P community: simultaneous downloading, a successful resume feature, and the mainstream introduction of video sharing. If an individual could actually connect to the iMesh P2P network, it provided a glimpse into the future of file-sharing.

At this time, a majority of Internet users were still connected via dial-up – which made video sharing nearly impossible. Yet there were plenty of individuals determined enough to get their first taste of video sharing from iMesh (although this type of sharing had existed for years on Usenet, IRC and FTP.)

As time marched on, iMesh continued to survive, albeit in relative obscurity. Other networks such as eDonkey, FastTrack, and BitTorrent would later come along and fill the file-sharing landscape. Despite being shadowed by these super-networks, iMesh continued to muddle along. Realizing this network could not survive in the long term as a centralized network, iMesh joined the FastTrack network in the latter part of 2002.

From this time forward, iMesh enjoyed a reasonably successful mainstream existence. For the random file-trader who knew little about FastTrack, its history, or its reputation, iMesh served its purpose. While most hardcore file-traders wouldn’t be caught dead with the software, iMesh slowly began to draw in users. During its height on the FastTrack network, it accounted for almost a quarter of its total population.

Noting iMesh’s increasing popularity, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) took legal action against the Israeli based company in September of 2003. Citing the apparent defiance of iMesh, the RIAA took an aggressive step against this company.

"iMesh's recent conduct and public statements make clear that its goal is to encourage illegal behaviour. This action is timed to make clear that there is no free pass for those who centre their activity around, and profit from, copyright infringement".

In support of this lawsuit in 2003, RIAA CEO and Chairman Cary Sherman stated, “There’s a growing awareness that taking music that is not yours off the Internet can have real consequences and people are beginning to think twice before doing it.”

While its true potential file-traders may think twice, the near-tripling of the P2P population since Mr. Sherman’s statement proves that third time’s a charm.

In any case, the threat of costly litigation – which could potentially run into the hundreds of millions of dollars – forced iMesh into a settlement. In July of 2004, iMesh announced it had settled with the RIAA. According to the RIAA, iMesh had to fork over $4.1 million and migrate to a pay system. Some say iMesh caved in and should have fought the good fight like StreamCast. Yet the potential revenue stream of a successful pay P2P service dismissed any likelihood of that scenario.

And there iMesh sat for over a year. Some began to think iMesh was never going to transition to a pay P2P service. Perhaps iMesh’s geographical distance from the United States would once again prove the RIAA’s tactics didn’t apply in Israel?

Not quite.

Today, iMesh has released version 6.0. It marks the first time a once free application transitioned to a pay P2P service. The new iMesh service will have two components. The first is a free element that will connect to the Gnutella network. The other component will download Microsoft DRM (Digital Rights Management) files from a central server and a proprietary P2P network.

The service will function much like “Napster to Go” or “Rhapsody to Go.” For $6.95 a month, the user can rent an unlimited amount of music from the iMesh service. Once the subscription runs out or the individual cancels the service, the music magically disappears.

Speaking of magic, how exactly does one convert from a free P2P to a pay P2P service? With the aid of AudibleMagic, users will be told what they can and cannot download from the Gnutella network like little school children. If the individual tries to obtain an unlicensed track from Gnutella, current and future search results of the unlicensed file will be permanently blocked.

According to Talmon Marco, co-founder and president of iMesh, the new service’s catalog will be “slightly larger” than that of iTunes. There will be a free trial period of 60-90 days, prior to the implementation of the finalized service charge.

Despite all of iMesh’s past and current problems, it’s interesting to note this application just became the number one download on Download.com. Prior to the publication of this article, all the users of this client have been accustomed to a free network without restrictions. Although the older client will still function, it remains to be seen how many are willing to participate in a pay service.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
P2P Clients :: Other Clients

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