O’Reilly Network: Gnutella and Freenet Represent True Technological Innovation

“The computer technologies that have incurred the most
condemnation recently — Napster, Gnutella, and Freenet — are also
the most interesting from a technological standpoint. I’m not
saying this to be perverse. I have examined these systems’
architecture and protocols, and I find them to be fascinating.
Freenet emerged from a bona fide, academically solid research
project, and all three sites are worth serious attention from
anyone interested in the future of the Internet.”

“In writing this essay, I want to take the hype and hysteria out
of current reports about Gnutella and Freenet so the Internet
community can evaluate them on their merits. This is a largely
technical article; I address the policy debates directly in a
companion article, The Value of Gnutella and Freenet. I will not
cover Napster here because its operation has received more press.
It’s covered in “Napster: Popular Program Raises Devilish Issues”
by Erik Nilsson, and frankly, it is less interesting and
far-reaching technically than the other two systems.”

In essence, Gnutella and Freenet represent a new step in
distributed information systems. Each is a system for searching for
information; each returns information without telling you where it
came from.
They are innovative in the areas of distributed
information storage, information retrieval, and network
architecture. But they differ significantly in both goals and
implementation, so I’ll examine them separately from this point

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