New Gnutella is industry’s nightmare – Latest version of Bearshare shows major improvement

The original incarnation of Gnutella was so terrible that I fully expected Napster to remain the preferred online music-exchange system, regardless of whether or not the service remained free. I’m no longer so sure that’s going to be the case. Thanks to the arrival of new Windows client software — stuff that even normal human beings can operate — Gnutella just got a big second wind.

The original incarnation of Gnutella was so terrible that I fully expected Napster to remain the preferred online music-exchange system, regardless of whether or not the service remained free. I’m no longer so sure that’s going to be the case. Thanks to the arrival of new Windows client software — stuff that even normal human beings can operate — Gnutella just got a big second wind.

IN DOING SO, some sharp developers have upset the apple cart, just when the music studios thought they finally had things under control.

Until now, the honchos of the music establishment have given short shrift to Gnutella, which suffered by comparison to Napster as a file-swapping alternative.

Truth be told, they really didn’t have much to worry about. Gnutella was relatively complicated to install and operate. Even worse, it was a slowpoke with lead boots. There were complaints aplenty about the amount of throughput required when Gnutella was just idling — and this came from people with T-1 lines at work. On top of that, Gnutella suffered performance hits after host caches became popular and the system became clogged.

Still, Gnutella represented the record business’s worst nightmare.

Unlike Napster, Gnutella, which was born last March, was not an address or a company. You couldn’t serve it with legal papers or picket outside its office. There was no there, there. In this network of distributed intelligence, all you needed to do was connect with a host. At that point, you were off to the races, interacting with other nodes on the oh-so-decentralized Gnutella universe. It was just so god-awful clunky to use that you had to be a real glutton for punishment to suffer through the process.

That made it relatively easy for the music moguls to turn their lawyers loose on Napster, which had become the Internet’s preferred music file-exchange service more by default than by virtue of its technology. And while Attorney David Boies did his darnedest to keep Napster afloat, the company cut a deal with Bertelsmann. My guess is Napster is desperate to do the same with the other titans — anything to secure its survival (and perhaps IPO payday). The days of free music file-swapping, my friend, are coming to an end.

Or are they? If you were like me and had sworn off using Gnutella forever, spend a few minutes with Bearshare, a front-end program that’s got me singing a new song. There are still kinks to iron out, but the current incarnation of Bearshare (version 2.05) constitutes a quantum-leap improvement over its predecessors and puts Gnutella back in the thick of things. It’s easy to use, and has more than enough bells and whistles to keep chronic tinkerers content.

Unless I’m dreadfully mistaken, legions of users are going to flock to Gnutella the day Napster announces plans for phased-in charge-for-use. Even if Napster stands pat, the client improvements represented by Bearshare and other front-ends are bound to draw users back to Gnutella.

My guess is that’s also going to give Hilary Rosen, the Recording Industry Association’s hired gun, more than a momentary pause. It’s going to make for a major conniption.

Author: Charles Cooper

News Service: ZDNet

URL: http://www.msnbc.com/news/524775.asp