As LimeWire bites the dust, we take a fond look back at other popular file sharing services such as Napster and KaZaa, and realise just how much they shaped our musical tastes.
The demise of the Gnutella client, LimeWire (a study in 2008 showed it was still the number one peer-to-peer client eight years after was first released!), has us reminiscing about some of the popular file sharing applications of the past, which opened up a whole new world of file sharing for us and expanded our musical taste.
Not only did we download a lot of music because of these file sharing applications, we also purchased many hundreds of CDs because we were finally able to unearth music artists that were never played on local radio stations.
Indeed, these file sharing applications that we fondly remember, brought us a new medium with which to sample new music and they were an invaluable tools for all Aussie music aficionados -- even though we may have been stuck on dial-up Internet connections at the time. If we were lucky, we could also use the ISDN line in the office without the boss really knowing about it.
For our trip down memory lane, we’re using our dusty memories (and a little help from Wikipedia), so apologies in advance if we mess up some of the features or don’t mention all of the capabilities of these file sharing applications -- hey, we’re gettin’ older and the memories of our youth are fading fast (and feel free to corect us or flame us for any oversights in the comments section).
NapsterLike many peer-to-peer fans out there, Napster holds a special place in our hearts.
The arrival of Napster made it easy to download songs from artists that we could only read about online, with Buckley's chance of ever hearing it get airplay on Australian radio. We'd read a Newsgroup post or an online reviews site, then we hit-up Napster to see if we could download the song. If we were lucky, we found a user with a stable connection and were able to download it on our 56Kbps connection in around 20-30min. If we liked the song, we scoured the shops on the weekend trying to find it; if we couldn’t, we’d consider ordering it online from CDNOW.com, Tower Records or Amazon. We experienced the sounds of so many great artists (and also plenty of rubbish ones) using Napster; we think it was an invaluable service for music lovers who wanted to sample new music, as this was the easiest means to do so at the time.
ScourScour.Net was a search engine through which you could find pretty much any media on the Scour Exchange peer-to-peer network. It evolved at around the same time as Napster, and while it wasn’t as popular as Napster, somehow it seemed to have more hard-to-find music -- especially oldies (relatively speaking). When we selected the songs we wanted to download, they would appear in an elegant little pop-up window called the Scour Media Agent. The application supported resumed downloads and simultaneous downloads. Unlike Napster, you weren’t limited to only sharing music through the Scour Exchange service; and the sharing of movie files brought about Scour's downfall as the movie studios hit Scour with a copyright lawsuit.
AudioGalaxyAudioGalaxy was probably the best of the music file sharing applications and it was popular around the same time as Napster. The AudioGalaxy Web site worked in conjunction with the AudioGalaxy Satellite application, which had to be installed before the service could be used. To download songs, the application had to be open; when search results from the Web site were returned, we simply clicked the little satellite button next to them to initiate the download.
The neat thing about the AudioGalaxy file sharing service was that we could see the bitrate of the files and how 'available' they were (the same song could be available from many users with varying connection speeds). We could start the downloads at work before we left the office, then go home, connect to the Internet and launch the application on our home system in order to stop the downloads once they were completed. Remote access of the downloads (and ensuing uploads) meant we could control the files (making sure they didn't run all night and make the IT guys suspicious). Then the next day we could burn the downloaded MP3s to a CD -- later on we would transfer them directly to our Diamond Rio or JazPiper MP3 players. Of course we could’ve also left the AudioGalaxy application on at home and selected the files we wanted to download from our work PC (or vice versa), but this was in the days before always-on connections for the home.
KaZaaWhen KaZaa came along, it blew us away. It was the first real application through which we could download not only music, but also videos and applications! Of course, back in those days if anyone wanted to download an episode of Family Guy or Jackass, they had to really be dedicated because it would take forever and a day to download. It was also a great platform for collecting viruses if you weren't a careful PC user. We're sure most of you remember KaZaa better than we do, so we won't harp on about it, but KaZaa's ongoing court battles and settlement with the record industry were covered in detail in the press.
WinMX and HotlineOther file sharing services that we also used in the hey day include WinMX -- which is apparently still kicking around, and which was a haven for viruses but also useful for tracking down many hard-to-find songs -- and Hotline. Hotline was home grown by an Aussie developer and was on the scene before before Napster. It was very much an underground file transfer service that you used if you wanted to find rare music and videos, or even computer programs.
Now we should point out that we don't condone file sharing, but we feel it's important to highlight these innovative file sharing applciations and how they actually helped bring exposure to lots of great music and videos. These days, with fast Internet connections, iTunes and high-quality streaming, the avenues for sampling music are much greater and there is no reason to 'preview' (that is to say, download and keep) music rather than buying it. Back when these file sharing applications were around though, CDs were still the primary format and previewing via MP3s was the best way to figure out what was worth buying before outlaying your hard earned cash.
Do you have fond memories of these file sharing applications? Do you still use WinMX? Are you shedding a tear for the LimeWire client? Let us know by sharing your comments below.