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OpenNap – A Domain of P2P Community
August 16, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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OpenNap is one of the original pioneers of the P2P world. Shortly after the creation of Napster in 1999, the networking protocol was reverse engineered by a developer named DrScholl and a several others programmers. The result of this effort would become known as OpenNap. As its name implies, OpenNap is an open source community - for the most part.

Intro / History

When OpenNap servers began popping up in 1999, almost immediately a large following ensued. At the time, the OpenNap community was largely accessible through the original Napster client. Combining the power of both the Napster and OpenNap P2P networks made an enormous quantity of information available through one client.

During 2000-2001, OpenNap’s navigation was enhanced through a program named Napigator. Napigator was a server interface that allowed an individual to connect to any OpenNap (or Napster) server he or she wished. This program was a stand-alone application that would function along side an OpenNap client. The program would download a list of current servers (maintained from Napigator.com), and the user would simply point and click the server he or she wished to join. Later versions plugged right into the Napster client.

Times were good. Hard to find music absent from Napster was commonly traded and OpenNap nearly out napped Napster.

However like all good things, this party came to an abrupt end. As the RIAA began to successfully dismantle Napster during the latter part of 2000, the population of OpenNap began to surge. While it appeared OpenNap might become the next Napster, it suffered from the same vulnerability – centralized servers. When the RIAA finally destroyed Napster in 2001, it then switched its guns over to OpenNap.

During OpenNap’s peak in February 2002, the RIAA on behest of its member companies began sending “Cease and Desist” notices to all sizable networks. One by one, the networks began to collapse and OpenNap was reduced from a population of over 250,000 to little more than 50,000 in less than five months.

Clients

For those unwilling to use the old Napster client in their journey across OpenNap, there were dozens of clients to choose from.

During the early days of OpenNap, the client landscape was filled with such applications like Rapigator. Another OpenNap client would emerge during this time period, an application dubbed WinMX. At this time, WinMX was an OpenNap client only and did not support it own proprietary network.

There was also FileShare and MyNapster, two very early OpenNap clients now long extinct. FileShare was an excellent client that was the preferred method for connecting to the MusicCity OpenNap network. At that time MusicCity, the precursor to today’s Morpheus, maintained an enormous resource of between 20 and 30 servers. It was by far the largest OpenNap community, a distinction yet to be eclipsed. However, during the RIAA crackdown MusicCity departed OpenNap for the less vulnerable FastTrack network. Some claim MusicCity’s days on OpenNap was simply a clever marketing scheme, aimed at drawing users to their new client.

AudioGnone, which is an excellent client, made its debut in early 2001 and still manages to exist. However, the client and homepage accompanying this program have remained virtually unchanged since its genesis. This seems to be the case with most OpenNap clients, although a few still manage to churn out updates.

Lopster, for example is still active, with the latest activity reported on 8/15/2005. Although this is an “anything but” Windows client, it has been successfully ported to Windows under the name of “WinLop.” WinMX of course still supports OpenNap, although it is debatable whether this client will ever be updated. Considering OpenNap has changed little since its inception, having an ultra current application is not absolutely necessary.

Servers

An OpenNap client by itself is useless unless you have some servers to connect to. Napigator did a great job of populating clients with servers, however this utility like most other things related to OpenNap disappeared. Depending on one’s OpenNap skill level, this poised a considerable problem. But like all things related to P2P, a replacement soon came forward.

GotNap.com, which is similar in nature to Napigator, maintains a list of numerous public servers and imports server lists to popular OpenNap clients. Some notable differences however, is GotNap is not a commercial venture and does not have a standalone client. Yet it still gets the job done, but OpenNap would still suffer additional losses.

Unfortunately development on the official Sourceforge OpenNap server software was discontinued in 2002. However thanks to its open source nature, new software would soon emerge. Though various forms of OpenNap server software exist, the one popular implementation is SlavaNap. SlavaNap was once hosted on SourceForge and was an open source application. However, its switch over to SlavaNap.org ended its open nature.

Unlike the original OpenNap software, SlavaNap is designed for simplicity and has an easy to use windows interface. Just about anyone who knows how to download an application and has broadband connection can now run an OpenNap network. Whether this is a good thing or not remains highly contested. Networks such as BunnyMatrix and SlavaBeach.net use SlavaNap servers.

An off-shoot of the original OpenNap program is the popular OpenNap-NG software. OpenNap-NG, like SlavaNap, is still being developed and is regularly updated. Funny thing is, there are two versions of OpenNap-NG: the OpenNap-NG that exists on SourceForge, and the version that exists on OpenNap-NG.org. Necessary-Evil, an old time favorite of the OpenNap community, utilizes and supports the latter version of OpenNap-NG software.

Each version claims to be the legitimate copy, and each version claims the other is a fallacy. You can read the SourceForge’s version of events here, and OpenNap-NG.org’s story here.

Conclusion

Although development around OpenNap is not as fast paced as eMule or LimeWire, this community is far from being a ghost town. In fact, the exact opposite is true as there's even some intense drama in the server development communtiy.

OpenNap is perhaps one of the few P2P communities that retain the original communal nature that accompanied Napster. Interestingly, Napster’s direct decedents, SoulSeek and OpenNap, despite all their faults still maintain this core value of P2P. A quality many of their newer, more advanced brethren tend to place in the back burner.


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

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