By Thomas Mennecke 12/13/02
We'd like to thank Elon Oren, CEO of iMesh, who took the time out to conduct this interview - Tom
In the file-sharing world, few things can be guaranteed. Communities come and go, and many file-traders keep a close eye on alternative P2P networks; anticipating their favorite client may be terminated at any moment.
While few things last in the P2P world, iMesh has managed to stand the test
of time. Started in 1999 during the times of Napster, this community existed
in the shadows of the file-sharing world. At the time, iMesh generated enough
interest that sustained a population of approximately 10,000 users.
During this era, iMesh was a centralized community. Like its brethren CuteMX, Scour and Napster, iMesh was among the better-known names in file-sharing. Although difficult to connect, the application was the first client to implement multi-source downloading and a resume feature that actually worked. In an effort to promote the iMesh community and P2P networking, high level talks were underway to merge with the powerful Scour Exchange community. However, fate had a much different plan as Scour was banished to the bowels of the Internet. Although Scour was a great resource of music and videos, it grew too much too fast, a mistake iMesh didn't want to replicate. In order to prevent this from occurring, the administrators purposely made connection to the network difficult. While being frustrating to the end users, this prevented iMesh from being the next target on the RIAA/MPAA's hit list.
During a brief time in iMesh's history, the RIAA had requested that copyrighted material be removed from their network. When they were centralized, such a feat would have been easy to accomplish. However, communications between iMesh and the RIAA fizzled, and the next iteration of this community was about to begin.
There's been much speculation regarding iMesh's participation in the FastTrack network. To immediately clear things up, iMesh does connect to the FastTrack network. The user count one reads, typically over 1.2 million, is the amount of iMesh clients currently connected to the network. While being its own independent pool of users, the network of iMesh users also communicates with KaZaA and Grokster clients.
Currently, iMesh is an ad supported community. As many already know, "clean iMesh" versions have been proliferating across the Internet. However, unlike Grokster, iMesh has taken a passive approach to this software. "We don't care very much about this software and we're not very concerned about it. If its existence does cut into our profit margin, its hardly noticeable. If we really wanted to get rid of it we could."
As a member of the FastTrack community, iMesh's future remains uncertain. Currently, Grokster is taking much of the heat for the other clients of the FastTrack community. "iMesh's future depends a lot on what happens to Grokster in the United States. If the courts tell Grokster they can no longer operate, we'll have to re-evaluate our situation. We are a business, if we can't make money then most likely we'll discontinue our product."
In the mean time, iMesh plans to release a new version within the coming month. Cosmetically, the client will remain largely unchanged. However, some changes will be made to the media player and manager. A more sophisticated media player that allows better video viewing will be available. In the coming months, we can also anticipate a "paid" or "pro" version of iMesh. It will basically be the same as the current version, except without the banners or popup ads.
Believing there's money to be made in the P2P community, iMesh is looking to force copyright holders to compromise their ridged position. As a supporter of DRM (Digital Rights Management), iMesh believes that paid content can be delivered through their network to the masses. Future versions of iMesh will prioritize search results in a way that favors media that is protected with DRM. For example, if you were to search for song "X", the official versions supplied by the music industry would appear first. Given lower priority would be copies that cannot be accounted for, or so called "illegal" or "illicit" copies.
From a business perspective, iMesh has the potential to reap huge profits from the file-sharing world. However, success for any digital provider hinges on two things. First, the RIAA/MPAA must be willing to take a different stand on P2P networking and accept it as a new distribution medium. There's a lot of money to be made on both sides, copyright holders just have to realize this. Second, copyright holders and legitimate P2P companies have to convert the masses away from rouge networks who intend to keep information free. The second point will be the most difficult to accomplish. With many free P2P networks developed for the sole intention of challenging the significance of the RIAA/MPAA, a difficult road lies ahead for those who attempts to control the file-sharing world.
You can check out iMesh here.
Tom from Slyck.com is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Tom's insights on other digital music issues can be read on his site and we encourage you to check it out.
The Nomad Zen can be ordered from Amazon.
Other MP3 Stories:
Jon Johansen - v - Hollywood
Broadcast Flag - to be, or not to be?
Review: Archos Jukebox Camera
Consumer attitudes and the record industry