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History of P2P Networks & Filesharing

In the early days after the Internet had been developed the most popular file sharing was the FTP or file transfer protocol because it was anonymous. Since, the file sharing is anonymous over the FTP server lets users log-in with an anonymous name to receive files or share files on the Internet.  Computers were able to access remote files on other computers.

Usenet was one of the first developed in 1979; the network was initially based for dial-up connection but has been transferred over to the Internet. Usenet uses a specialized client server protocol called Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP).  This special server primary purpose is the exchange of text messages, but attached to these messages is encoded files which are distributed to subscribers of Usenet.  Usenet is one of the largest carries of file sharing and Internet traffic.  Many legal questions have arose around the use of copyrighted material over  file sharing. Between the developments of Usenet in 1979 to the 1990’s, files sharing were primarily done through the use of bulletin board based systems. The computer game Doom grew in popularity due to the distribution of files through the bulletin board system.  Bulletin board systems became less desirable as the Internet grew and more advanced techniques for file sharing were developed.

About 20 years after Usenet had been developed, a new type of file sharing system was created  called Napster, which uses a centralized server to group all the files shared into databases.  Since, Napster used a centralized server for file sharing services could not use the transitory network transmission safe found in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act since they had control over all functions of their network. The software Napster collected and stored file information from their users computers to being made available for other people to download. Napster was the client host, which provided the ability of file sharing between the users once it had been authorized by Napster.  Not long after Napster was created the company was charged with crimes of copyright infringement, more specifically the case A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. will be looked at in greater depth later in the document.

After the legal concerns facing Napster, in 2000 Gnutella was released in March and was the first decentralized file sharing network. The decentralized network was connected to all software and therefore had no immediate point of failure unlike Napster.  A year after Gnutella in 2001, Kazaa  was developed and it s FastTrack network was distributed and was assigned super-nodes to increase the efficiency of networking between users. This network was encrypted and made vast attempts to keep other competitors off the FastTrack network. Kazaa was one of the most popular file sharing systems after Napster unitl its decline in 2004 due to bundled malware and legal battles.  Since these file sharing programs were getting into lawsuits, many universities and institutions added file sharing regulations do to the legality concerns. Many others have been developed for example LimeWire and PirateBay, have faced legal penalties. But, networks such as BitTorrent have seemed to manage and circumvent these legal ramifications due to its open source clients. BitTorrent uses a torrent file to store the metadata. The torrent file contains URL’s of multiple trackers, which contain specific pieces of the file being downloaded. Simultaneously your file is being downloaded from multiple sources at one time.

Sources:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usenet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_sharing#cite_note-9
http://www.tech-faq.com/p2p-file-sharing.html
http://download.cnet.com/windows/p2p-file-sharing-software/
http://compnetworking.about.com/od/p2ppeertopeer/g/bldef_p2p.htm

Intro to P2P File Sharing

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