Morpheus Still Down.

By Richard Menta 2/28/2002

This morning all of Morpheus' users were again greeted with that enigmatic message - Your version of Morpheus is too old to connect to the network. Please download updated version from www.musiccity.com. We know now there was no planned upgrade yet, just a rift in the FastTrack network Morpheus shares with KaZaa and Grokster that has literally pushed it off the network, sending tens-of-millions of confused users scrambling.

The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) and their legal team are meanwhile dancing the happy jig as this event gives them fuel for their legal assault against the above three programs. To them, it's proof to their claims that FastTrack is a centralized network and therefore subject to the same legal action that shut down Napster for several months last year.

Still, it has to concern users why this all happened in the first place and could it have been more than an accident?

According to CNET, Morpheus' parent company StreamCast (formerly MusicCity) claims it isn't their fault. "That message was coming from somewhere else in the network--apparently…from computers running a new version of the software distributed by Kazaa earlier this month".

Why would a message coming from a KaZaa server mention Morpheus and MusicCity by name? Is StreamCast Chairman Steve Griffin saying the above message is imbedded in all Morpheus clients and was just triggered by the network? Or is he saying the words " Your version of Morpheus is too old to connect to the network" were composed outside of his organization, suggesting a DDoS attack by either someone who has hacked FastTrack and KaZaa or a deliberate action by KaZaa itself? If such is the suspicion, no one has said a word beyond Griffin's veiled hints.

"Unfortunately, Kazaa's recent upgrade has made Kazaa's and Grokster's new versions incompatible with Morpheus," the company said in its statement. Our question? Who is in control of the FastTrack network, KaZaa or FastTrack?

And is Morpheus leaving the FastTrack network? The company said it will continue to operate using an "open protocol" network and FastTrack is a closed protocol network.

Maybe I'm stretching here with the cloak-and-dagger stuff, but StreamCast pays to tap the FastTrack Network. Now it appears Morpheus is going to quickly abandon it.

That alone implies volumes should it indeed be the path StreamCast takes. Something must be really wrong to drop FastTrack so quickly and decisively.

Has anyone heard anything from FastTrack CEO Niklas Zennstrom about this?

The MusicCity URL is accessible now, having been blown away the last day or two from the overburden of millions of confused users looking for answers. The site has announced a new version of the program will be available in a few days. This was to be the version of Morpheus that was to be able to connect to both the Gnutella and FastTrack networks, making it the first P2P client to offer access to both from a single program.

Griffin told CNet Wednesday that the new version of Morpheus, Morpheus Preview Edition, will be based on Gnutella. I am assuming he means Gnutella only, but having been blind-sided only two days ago StreamCast may still looking for solutions to avoid that.

That's because, as Jordan Ritter points out in his illuminating research, Gnutella may not be able to scale to absorb the 51 million who downloaded Morpheus (see Why Gnutella Can't Scale. No, Really).

I guess we will just have to wait and see how all this unfolds. My sense is there is something bigger going on here, but without evidence we can only speculate at what it might be.

One more note: The RIAA has argued against the FastTrack brethren's claim that they have no control over the network of people who trade files using their software. This, the RIAA will say, proves that FastTrack is not a decentralized service and therefore not impervious to shut down, something they want the California courts to order during the Grokster/Morpheus/KaZaa trial. As far as Morpheus is concerned, it has been shutdown and will be legally compelled to satisfy such an order should it come.

But can you say that there is control?


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