Shareaza Review

By Thomas Mennecke 9/26/04

On November 6th of 2002, Michael Stokes, programmer of Shareaza, released version 1.7 of his software. While this may seem like just another day in the life of P2P, it would spark one of the greatest confrontations between file-sharing networks. Version 1.7 would support the highly controversial Gnutella2 protocol.

Releasing a new P2P network in and of itself would not prove to be the controversy. To understand what precipitated, a bit of a history lesson is necessary.

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Prior to diversifying to Gnutella, Shareaza was solely a Gnutella client. Michael Stokes was an active and respected member of the Gnutella Development Forum, who brought about many new ideas to an aging network. However, much like Ares developer Alberto Treves, Michael was frustrated at the slow pace of development and could not longer wait for more radical ideas to be implemented. Without any warning or notice, Michael Stokes broke ranks from the GDF, registered and released Shareaza 1.7.

Commercial Gnutella developers, especially BearShare, were outraged that the Gnutella2 domain was snatched from underneath them, along with much of their combined work.

However, Gnutella2 supporters contend that such a move was ultimately necessary in order to save Gnutella2 from commercial P2P development. To this day, many in the P2P community view Michael Stokes as a hero for his actions.

Since that time, Shareaza has fulfilled its promise and became open source with the 2.0 release. In addition, Shareaza also supports the eDonkey2000, BitTorrent and original Gnutella networks. Considering most are already familiar with the resourcefulness of eDonkey2000 and BitTorrent, we will confine this review to Shareaza as a Gnutella2 client.

First and foremost, it is important for first time users to realize that Shareaza is spyware and adware free. No ads, data miners, no tracking cookies not even an HTML banner.

The interface for Shareaza is clean and logically organized. The client contains an upper and lower tool bar. The upper tool bar controls network connections, views, tools and help documentation. The lower graphical toolbar assists the user with navigation functions, such as "home", "library", "media player", "search" and "transfers". The search function is redundantly located on both the "home" page and "search page."

The network architecture for Gnutella2 is similar to the original Gnutella network. One of its self-crowned achievements is its superior implementation of partial file sharing (PFS) over Gnutella. This allows an individual to share an incomplete file. However, the original Gnutella network had already implemented this feature since July of 2003 through LimeWire and has been well-received. Which network does a better job is irrelevant, the fact remain that this feature combined with multi-source swarming results in a highly efficient distribution mechanism.

As a network, Gnutella2 is reasonably resourceful. All types of mainstream music were readily available. More obscure music was also quite common, however not nearly as plentiful as SoulSeek. The bitrate availability was generally around 128 kb/sec, although some 160 and 192 files did exists. From the searches we conducted, we encountered NO Ogg Vorbis files. However, this should not be taken as a significant slight against the Gnutella2 network, as the network did perform very well at more simplistic tasks.

As a client, Shareaza is a clean and comfortable P2P client that takes little in the way of system resources. As a network, Gntuella2 is certainly not as impressive as mega-networks like eDonkey2000, BitTorrent, Ares Galaxy or DirectConnect. But it is not designed to compete with such monstrous communities, at least not yet. Shareaza appears to be a work in progress and does have the advantage of being a full client without any spyware/adware other restrictions. While Shareaza does receive a mixed review, we conclude that we look forward to the future of Shareaza and Gnutella2.

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