By Thomas Mennecke Slyck
On June 26, 2003, the RIAA began collecting information on FastTrack users. Within weeks, the search spread to Gnutella and the Manolito network. During that time span, the RIAA began subpoenaing ISP’s and fining members of the file-sharing community.
Initially, the RIAA’s "shock and awe" campaign yielded a certain level of success. Some P2P networks, particularly FastTrack, began to witness their populations retract. However, this initial victory would soon fade, as the P2P community has slowly returned to their file-sharing network of choice.
FastTrack, the main target of the RIAA’s onslaught, has suffered the most out of any P2P network. However, there are several factors affecting the decline and/or stagnation of this network. While many tend to focus on the RIAA, and its ability to drive out many of its users, the growing popularity of other networks contributed to its initial decline.
Despite being hit on two fronts, FastTrack has managed to limp away and retain the bulk of its userbase. Most notably, FastTrack has actually managed to reverse it decline. During the first month of the RIAA’s "sue ‘em all" celebration, FastTrack was sinking fast. At its lowest, some user counts placed it at 2.9 million, however it generally stayed above 3 million. Significant declines in total gigabytes available were also noticed.
Today, we’re seeing FastTrack’s numbers improve dramatically. It has consistently managed to top 4 million users, and perhaps more importantly, the totally number of shared files has also improved (around 5,000 Terabytes.)
iMesh, seeming isolated to just about anything, has managed to maintain its million plus userbase. This offshoot of the FastTrack network may find itself jumping the "network ship" again, as it is in talks to find a new community to call home.
Of course the biggest success story this year continues to be the eDonkey2000 (ED2K) network. This network, spearheaded by the venerable eDonkey client along with its open source cohort eMule, continues to post impressive numbers. Like many other networks, ED2K took an initial hit, however recovered quickly as noted below:
The most obvious aspect of this graph is the steady population growth. More importantly, we can notice in late June through August a decrease in population, followed by resurgence. Perhaps this graph, from the eDonkey tracking site Jingle, most dramatically captures the RIAA’s failure.
The Manolito P2P network, accessible through Blubster, Piolet and RockItNet, are also fighting their way through the RIAA. Although slowed down initially by the recording industry’s scare tactics, the Manolito network is publishing an impressive number of users and files. In fact, this week the Monolito network broke past 300,000 users for the first time, a very impressive feat.
The future of the Manolito network should continue to look bright as long as Piolet remains adware/spyware free.
While Gnutella may be the butt of every P2P joke, it is probably unwise to consider this network down and out. Its’ turbulent history has branded it a network of chaos and confusion, however recent upgrades by its leading development populace have kept Gnutella alive. Not only is Gnutella alive and kicking, a recent crawler upgrade by LimeWire has shown some impressive numbers. According to LimeWire’s recent crawl, Gnutella’s population is hovering near 200,000 users, which we are told is a conservative estimate.
Most other networks, such as SoulSeek, BitTorrent, DirectConnect and newcomer GLT Poliane have all either stabilized or have seen an increase in their popularity. As the RIAA touts their stunning success to the mainstream media, the truth reveals a very different story. The RIAA may be able to maintain their victory cry for a limited period, however many will begin to question their success as time goes on.