A group of programmers has developed a service similar to
Napster, the music swapping website.
Created by developers at Nullsoft, the company that built the
popular Winamp MP3 player and which is now owned by America Online
(AOL), Gnutella creates self-perpetuating networks that spread
without the involvement of any one company.
Users that install the software can connect to other 'servant'
computers, creating a chain of users. Once connected, users can
share files of any kind, including MP3 music files.
In March, Gnutella's creators posted information about the
software online. But within 24 hours AOL, fearing lawsuits similar
to the one filed against Napster, shut down the website,
Josh Felser, general manager for AOL's Spinner and Winamp
projects, said at the time: "The Gnutella software was an
unauthorised freelance project and the website that allowed access
to the software has been taken down."
However, several hundred users had downloaded the program before
the website was shut down and some set up their own sites to post
the software. Since then, more than 250 programmers around the
world have continued to work on its development.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which is suing
Napster for alleged copyright infringement, is taking a
wait-and-see approach on Gnutella. Amy Weiss, the association's
senior vice president of communications, said: "We're aware of the
technology and are evaluating it. We're keeping our options
The Gnutella architecture allows for one-to-one connections
which make the software difficult to control and users difficult to
trace. Users can connect to create their own virtual private
networks that can form and disappear spontaneously. This lack of
accountability is seen as both a benefit and a detriment.
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