Napster clones promise much but deliver far less
by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Business in
Issue #644 February 26-March 4, 2002, The High Tech Office column
"Peer-to-peer," which used to mean the low-end
networking built into
Windows and the Mac, has become a much-heard buzzword in a new context.
This time, it refers to informal networks of computers, connecting
the Net to share files.
Peer-to-peer gained notoriety when Napster became
way to get music without having to go to the CD store, and without
to pay. The result, last year, was a counter-attack by the music
which used the courts to effectively castrate Napster.
But as Napster filtered out more of the songs users
had been sharing,
a new generation of peer-to-peer software appeared which, unlike
had no easy-to-shut-down central database.
Software like Morpheus (No. 1 on the popular download.com
AudioGalaxy, Direct Connect, iMesh, KaZaa, and LimeWire (the only one
a Mac version) go Napster one better by searching for any kind
file: music, video or software.
The result? Users can stop saving their allowance to
buy the latest
computer games and even the latest office suite software. Not only can
they avoid late charges at the video store, they can download movies to
their computers that aren't even on video yet.
Don't believe it?
Ask any teenager. Strictly for research purposes (of
course), I downloaded
and installed a copy of Morpheus. Want to see Lord of the Rings
on your laptop? Morpheus found me a copy, if I was prepared to download
three hefty 250 MB files.A search for "XP" offered a choice of Microsoft's
XP or Office XP, complete with serial number generators.
Copyright? Intellectual property rights? Again, ask
any teenager, if
only to see the blank stare that results. Ignoring copyright issues,
is not perfect, however, in this new reality where (as the
goes) information wants to be free.
- Most of the programs used to search and download
are free, but many
"spyware" that collects information on your computer system and
activity and may modify your system without informing you. If you're
sure of an application, type in its name at www.spychecker.com to
- The recording industry's attack on Napster has
had an effect.
there is still plenty of Britney Spears' music online, if your
are a little more obscure, there's far less available than there was a
year ago at Napster's peak.
- Many of the files downloaded aren't what they
claim. Music files may
off part way through, or may be a totally different song than the
- You're not going to want to download Lord of
the Rings over a
modem. Cable or DSL connection please. And even so, the movie you get
play, at best, in a medium-sized window on-screen.
- Many times, those long downloads just don't work.
Maybe the owner of
other computer had to reboot.
The computer press keeps promising that the new peer-to-peer will
provide all sorts of wonderful legitimate business uses. So far,
it seems to be mostly about getting music, movies, and software for