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p2p file sharing (3/4)

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lesles avatar
Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 06:23
Second Generation File Sharing

The second major P2P network that came into life was Gnutella. Following the demise of Napster, the Gnutella creators obviously aimed to create a de-centralized network that couldn't be shut down by simply turning off a server.P2P Network

Gnutella basically worked by directly connecting users to other users and hence omitting any central server altogether. Whenever you started a Gnutella client, you would connect to a certain number of users, which were also connected to a certain number of users and so on... resulting in one huge network. If you initiated a search, you asked everyone you were connected to "hey do you have this file?" Those users would then check if they did and also pass the questions along to everyone they were connected to.

The major advantage was of course that it couldn't be shut down that easily. However, there were many disadvantages; slow searches and isles of sub-networks not connected to each other.

Technology is not known for its slow evolution... ways to improve these networks, searches and increase download speeds quickly arose.

Following Gnutella, and becoming the most famous second generation network is FastTrack. Clients for this network include (but are not limited to) Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus. The names Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus are those of different clients that all connect to the same FastTrack network. Any of their users have access to the same files.

The FastTrack network introduced an important improvement, more specifically SuperNodes. Instead of working with a network where every user was treated as an equal, FastTrack promotes certain users to SuperNodes. These SuperNodes act like a central server, coordinating searches, and providing clients with a list of users they can connect to. This new technique proved very successful and quickly became the standard among second generation clients.

The FastTrack network, despite its de-centralized nature, has been the setting of numerous legal battles. It still remains operational today, even with a court ruling making it illegal in Australia. However, the failure of the lawyers pursuing a worldwide judiciary shutdown of the network has led to new tactics: intentional flooding of the network with fake files. For this reason, the once immensely popular network has lost most of its user base. More info can be found in the FastTrack guide.

eMule MascoteDonkey2000 was the fourth major P2P network to enter the picture. De-centralized, but using central servers that could easily be set up by anyone. The major advantages of the new eDonkey2000 network were the inability to easily flood the network with fake files, and a very strict leech protection structure. However, one major disadvantage is the high cost of keeping an ED2K server online.

Apart from the odd fake server, the network remains very much alive today. The network has overcome quite a few severe blows. The first blow was the raid and seizure of the most popular ED2K server RazorBack2, in February 2006. The most important blow came later that year when MetaMachine (the creators of eDonkey2000) and the RIAA reached a 30 million dollar settlement to stop development and deny eDonkey2000 users access to the network.

The network survived thanks to the fact that the eDonkey2000 network consisted mostly of eMule clients and not eDonkey2000 clients. Other popular alternatives to eMule are the many modified versions of eMule, aMule and Shareaza.

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