File-sharing at its worst: a study
Ever since I started reading about and experimenting on file-sharing programs, I have had this quixotic fondness of it. Ultimately, I know that it’s not with the program itself but its userbase that provides the files, but that doesn’t stop me from experimenting with the different programs and their corresponding gimmickries: I have mulled over and studied different instances and permutations of file-sharing programs over the past week. After finally completing all the requirements prior to graduation, I have once again found the study of its different programs interesting and consuming. (I still watch anime, but the bulk of my time was spent attempting to scientifically observe the different properties of different file-sharing programs.)
The History of File Sharing
With the advent of the BitTorrent protocol it can be easily assumed that BitComet and uTorrent, to name some widely-recognized programs for BitTorrent, are currently the most popular programs, and rightfully so. The absence of decentralization, aside from boosting the distribution of the file, are just a few of the protocol’s perks.
Before the surge of torrents, however, there were programs like Kazaa, Morpheus, Grokster and BearShare, to name a few. These were the programs that dominated the sphere of file-sharing about eight to ten years ago. These programs connected to different protocols, but all of them had one thing in common: they all had spyware sometime in their existences. I can quite bitterly remember the difficulties that I have had when I used Kazaa on a previous computer of mine, and so do many people. Kazaa was such a destructive program that even its developers and its staff refused to install it on their own computers. They got away with it back then because spyware was something novel and unfamiliar: it isn’t now. In the end, Kazaa still had to settle for 100 million dollars in a lawsuit.
As more studies and more information uncovered the extent of their insidiousness, people became more and more hesitant to install ad-supported software in their PCs. In time, adware and spyware became more or less synonymous with one another, and with good reason: adware often spied on one’s Internet habits so as to deliver ‘relevant’ advertisements to the end-user. With the arrival of the BitTorrent protocol, most of Kazaa’s contemporaries (including itself) were dealt a coup de grace: there was simply no more room for file-sharing programs that utilized adware to generate revenue when there were freer and better alternatives. LimeWire persisted because of its decision not to have anything to do with adware. Currently, it is the most dominant program that exists also as the remnant of that age. BearShare and Morpheus also persisted, but they had to come clean from spyware. However, both are merely shadows of their former selves.
I love the BitTorrent protocol: not only does it allow me to obtain high-quality anime, it also offers a solution to the procurement of big files such as films, something that the programs of yesteryears were unable to proffer. However, to appreciate the past even more, I decided to engage in more hands-on activities on it: this is where the experimentation came in.
Experiments on File-Sharing Programs
I have been looking for programs that would function well as alternatives to LimeWire and BearShare Pro (before the change in management), the programs I have found to be most efficient in obtaining smaller files. To do this, however, I have had to wade through the different spyware-infested programs of the past. I did not do the tests in my own home computer, but did it on a computer with a program that functioned the same way as DeepFreeze: it did not allow any real writing to the disk.
It was quite an experience: somehow, I was made to realize by the tests that people can be extremely stupid at times. I was, back then, when I installed Kazaa, but it was the only means to an end that I knew of. The blatant ignorance of people, however, when dealing with most of these spyware-infested programs was catastrophic. A wonderful example to illustrate my point would be the programs created with the same name as more popular programs to rein people in: in my tests, there were programs such as LimeWire Download Client or BearShare Download Client. Essentially, all of these programs are merely renames of the Kiwi Alpha client. Like Kiwi Alpha, these programs also contain quite an amount of spyware.
Their purpose is quite obvious: they mean to dupe the ignorant end-user by attempting to masquerade themselves as legitimate peer-to-peer programs. One must admit that BearShare Download Client or LimeWire Download Client sounds professional and serious: this may be enough to mislead some more ignorant persons.
The set of these ‘Download Client’ programs did not initially work when I installed them on the test computer. The programs were permanently just in the ‘Connecting …’ state and did not present any results. It was a good thing I was able to note that in Kiwi Alpha one needed to restart the computer for the program to properly work, because there were no such notations in the different Download Client programs I have tried. Upon restarting the computer, the programs indeed worked. However, they had nothing over LimeWire and BearShare. While they did provide a significant amount of results after searching, the number still paled when compared to the results found in LimeWire and BearShare (even after removing the obviously bogus results). I can only wonder how people could still fall into the trap of purchasing supposedly Professional versions of these programs: for one, they cost more than the Professional versions of the original programs; for another, they work a lot less efficiently, even when compared against the free versions of legitimate file-sharing programs.
There was also the existence of obvious scams such as Kazaa Gold and Kazaa Gold Premium, both of which were merely Kazaa Lite and Kazaa Lite Resurrection rebranded. Quite a few people paid an exorbitant amount for a free product, something that could have been avoided if they only did a little research.
These weren’t merely the software I tested, though. After finding this list (most file-sharing programs were and are spyware-infested), I tested most of the software found there. Indeed, as stated in the list, most are merely rebrandings of the more reputable file-sharing products such as LimeWire and Shareaza, but there are some programs like Kiwi Alpha that were coded and released in different names yet were the same programs.
Most of these products didn’t work. This kind of file-sharing, as of late, has waned because of the emergence of BitTorrent; most of the programs were no longer profitable; consequently, they were no longer maintained and no longer work as well (except for the few that only changed the skin of the product they ripped off, like CitrixWire, CruX, and Addax, ripping LimeWire and Shareaza off). There was a notable exception to this, however. Among the different permutations of the Kiwi Alpha program, 2 Find MP3 still downloaded despite its age. Unlike, however, the multitude of results when one searches highly popular artists in LimeWire, for example, it seldom had more than five results. Even searching for Eminem only had three results, and all were from his first album. But it was the only program I found that was both something originally coded (not merely a rip-off from a more reputable program) and immediately working (albeit incomparable to the more reputable programs). It must be never forgotten, however, that the program also installs a cocktail of spyware programs, so the risks far outweigh what little reward there is.
In conclusion, it is sound advice to stick to the BitTorrent protocol and LimeWire (despite its plethora of fake files). The rest of the file-sharing programs are bad alternatives, and I have confirmed it for myself: among them, however, 2 Find MP3 is the only program that has somewhat appealed to me.
P.S. As a post-script, despite the ugliness of Zultrax‘s (another reputable P2P program) design, it is a good program that connects to Gnutella (the protocol that LimeWire and the BearShare of yesteryear connects to) and ZEPP, its own proprietary protocol that focuses on network anonymity. It comes at the price of the speed of search results, but it is nevertheless a good protocol as well.