Morpheus 4 is Here and Legal

By Jon Newton 1/17/03

Morpheus 4 is here and legal - "the only American file-sharing software ruled legal by a U.S. federal court," its owner StreamCast Networks boasts.

"It lets users share on all the major p2p networks and, "By downloading Morpheus 4, you help beta-test the NEOnet technology developed to make it easier to find content with 100 percent accuracy," says StreamCast, a member of the p2p lobby group P2P United. "Morpheus protects your privacy with integrated access to public proxy networks and options for preventing others from snooping on you."

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Google does a great job for search results on the Web, StreamCast ceo Michael Weiss is quoted as saying in a CNET story here. "We hope to do as good a job on the edge of the Net."

Morpheus used to be one of the most popular p2p file sharing apps. Way back (well, not that much way back, actually) Streamcast was one of two licensees of a p2p client developed as KaZaA by Holland's FastTrack.

"The name was changed to Morpheus and the program was given a slightly different appearance," Eric over at InfoAnarachy wrote a couple of years ago. "(The other licensed version is called Grokster.) Later versions of Morpheus did not include spyware, whereas KaZaA and Grokster do. That's one reason Morpheus grew much faster than KaZaA, but it was always essentially the same application. Morpheus' parent company Streamcast is not a software development company.

"After a court order which would have meant a prolonged legal battle for FastTrack, the Dutch company decided to sell all rights to its software to Australia-based Sharman Networks. This mysterious company is now running the KaZaA website, where a spyware-loaded version of the FastTrack client can be downloaded.

"Shortly after the takeover, Morpheus users were excluded from the decentralized network. How this was accomplished has not yet been fully explained, but apparently it is related to the protocol changes in V1.5, now maintained by Sharman. Morpheus clients could not be updated because Sharman doesn't cooperate with Streamcast. In fact, Streamcast has accused Sharman of deliberately locking out Morpheus users.

"Why would they do this? This is where it gets clearer: Apparently the only reason for Sharman to buy KaZaA was to milk as much money out of it by including many spyware packages - this strategy cannot work if other incarnations of the same application come without spyware."

Now, in 2004, "By offering searches of all the major networks, including its most bitter rival, StreamCast hopes to recapture the top spot in the business by making comprehensive search results its hallmark," says the CNET story, going on:

"Sharman Networks executives say they're not happy about StreamCast's actions and are evaluating the software. 'On the surface, we're never comfortable when someone uses unauthorized, illegal code to tap into FastTrack,' said Sharman Chief Technology Officer Phil Morle. 'But we're not in panic mode'."

Sharman recently carved up its only serious rival, Kazaa-Lite (K-Lite). To all intents and purposes K-Lite was (and still is) a free version Kazaa Media Desktop without all the infuriating advertising garbage - popularly known as Spyware and Adware - that riddles Kazaa.

Slyck's Tom Mennecke has a Q&A with Weiss here. We've excerpted a section:

Slyck: Sharman Networks is very protective of its software and network. There will undoubtedly be great concern about the implementation of MLDonkey’s FastTrack support since it only downloads (leeches) off this network. Have you examined the possible detrimental effects this implementation may have? What were the results, if any?

StreamCast: We believe that Morpheus 4.0 with NEOnet™ will not adversely affect the performance of the FastTrack Network. Regarding leeching, if Sharman wishes to provide us with code so that we can implement sharing with their client, we would be happy to consider doing so. On a positive note, Morpheus users can get access to AltNET content without having to download the AltNET spyware that Kazaa forces on its users.

Slyck: Several thousand Morpheus 4.0 betas have made their way online with FastTrack support. With this test client in place, what effects, (positive or negative) have you noticed on FastTrack?

StreamCast: I doubt if several thousand clients will have any affect on a network of 36 million users. We’ll have to see what happens once Morpheus regains its 30 million users that it had before Sharman Networks knocked Morpheus off their supposedly decentralized FastTrack Network. At 30 million users I would expect to see some effect.c

Slyck: Does StreamCast’s dispute with Sharman from February 2002 have any role in the decision to implement FastTrack support?

StreamCast: What’s that old saying…don’t get mad-get even? But the real answer is that it’s not about revenge. We are implementing multi-network connectivity, including connectivity to FastTrack, because we believe that is what our users want and will find value in.

Jon Newton is the editor of and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

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