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Salon: The Gnutella paradox

Sep 29, 2000, 13:09 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Janelle Brown)

"Next week, Napster goes back to court to find out whether the service will be shut down for the duration of its trial. The Net is holding its breath in anticipation of the answer. If Napster is taken out, more than 30 million MP3 fans will surely flood the Net looking for a new home; Gnutella will probably be the first program many of those people download. Gnutella is not only already being heralded as the next Napster, but it's also considered by its most avid fans to be a better Napster: an open-source software program that is decentralized and anonymous, harder to sue than Napster and versatile enough to support all kinds of files."

"Gene Kan, 25, Gnutella's lead evangelist and the man behind the Gnutella portal at gnutella.wego.com, believes that the software is prepared for widespread use, even if he admits that it currently is still flawed. 'It was really clear to us from the outset that Gnutella software had a long way to go,' Kan says, but he believes that most of the program's biggest problems have been solved: 'Gnutella isn't perfect, but there's no huge, glaring thing missing.' And, he says, 'Gnutella is very popular; it's already very successful.'"

"But according to critics, Gnutella is hardly ready for prime time -- and is facing dilemmas almost as worrisome as the Napster lawsuit. Over the last month, users of the system have noticed a dramatic slowdown in responsiveness, and a number of reports have revealed serious instabilities in the Gnutella network. The open-source software developers who nabbed the program after America Online forced its programmers to abandon it are still striving to learn how to work together. And Gnutella's legal status is also murky: The RIAA is already hinting that it may be preparing a strategy to attack Gnutella."

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