The Fluidity of P2P

By Richard Menta 12/5/05

In some industries it appears that people don't like change much. A good example is when a popular television show changes networks. When Sabrina the Teenage Witch shifted from ABC to the WB and Buffy the Vampire Slayer switched from the WB to UPN both shows saw their Nielson ratings drop precipitously. This despite the fact that their new networks kept them on the same time and day as before. All the viewer had to do was select a different channel. If the Nielson's can be believed, selecting a different channel was too much for the average viewer.

Maybe this quirk in human nature explains why when the media industries derailed Napster they felt that this would solve the file sharing problem once and for all. It didn't.

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Users simply explored other networks, which popped up in the wake of Napsters demise. Napster's death made file sharing more popular as ever as traders - all who watch TV - flocked to KaZaa, Morpheus, and the various Gnutella flavors. This only prompted the content suppliers to go after these services too, but so far this is failing as users continue to move about and switch to other networks.

Immediately after Napster shut down, Morpheus became the number one P2P app. Their reign was short-lived as they soon found themselves kicked off of the FastTrack network by rival KaZaa, who purchased the underlying technology. Pleased with FastTrack's performance users shifted to KaZaa making it the number one service. As Tom Mennecke over at described in his recent article "The Eventual Fall of Kazaa" the media industries then turned their full efforts to the now Sharman-owned network. The movie and record industries did succeed in making it more frustrating to trade files on FastTrack and KaZaa now holds half the audience it did a couple of years ago. The users who left did not stop trading, though, they just shifted yet again to populate the likes of eDonkey and BitTorrent.

The media conglomerates sued other P2P companies, they sued users, they won a ruling in the Supreme Court that allowed them to hold P2P services accountable for copyright infringement, and they have come to a working agreement with BitTorrent. But is any of this giving the content industries more control?

Let's just say that I suspect Nielson was wrong about those Buffy fans, a rabid cult if ever there was one. I bet you most of them changed the channel, suggesting a severe weakness in the Nielson measurement strategy. It waits to be seen if taming comercial P2P tames file sharing. So far it has only fed it.


Other MP3 stories:
First RIAA P2P File Share Trial


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