The Limewire Loss, Where to From Here? (Alternatives to Limewire)

With the loss of Limewire in court earlier this month, many are reflecting what was Limewire and the developer behind it. The next question is, where do we go from here should Limewire fall under the waves of time?

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Limewire was an “old school” app for a lot of people. It’s rise to popularity can be traced clear back when Kazaa started to fail as a premier app for file-sharing. When Kazaa more or less fell to the way side, many users turned to several other apps. It may be one of the bigger moments that the file-sharing community was split in several directions. Users went to either Limewire or other Gnutella applications, eMule or eDonkey2000 on the eDonkey2000 network, WinMX, Shareaza which is connectible to the Gnutella2 network or the earliest of stages of BitTorrent via the mainline BitTorrent client if users were lucky enough to hear about it at the time.

If you believe some sources, the recent loss in courts spells the end of an application that many chose as their main app for file-sharing for years. It’s hard not to see this as the end with the developer facing a multi-million dollar fine at this point. According to an article on CNET, Mark Gorton was working on getting a deal with record labels to turn Limewire in to a legitimate service. Unfortunately, the RIAA views him as the next Bernie Madoff ripping people off. How one views Gorton may depend on how much of each side of the debate you believe.

One can’t help but remember how Napster could have been an amazing business model if a deal were simply worked out – how similar is that to Limewire’s case today? Rather than finding ways to work with technology, the copyright industry is merely stamping out any signs of change to offshore sources where it is significantly harder to get at. How many people are willing to believe that once the RIAA has killed off all the file-sharing, that it’ll then magically make an overwhelmingly attractive business model online given the experience of DRM and the majors ability to covertly slit the throats of the competition thanks to an overwhelming monopoly rather than the ability to produce a decent product?

Given past experience with file-sharers, it’s very easy to see how this huge loss for Limewire will ultimately mean very little to file-sharers in terms of being able to share files. It’s then easy to see that the only thing this lawsuit solves is quite possibly ruining a few people’s lives – those who were close to the development of Limewire. It’s important to remember that Limewire merely connected to a network. It’s not as though killing the app means killing the community.

The difficulty is in trying to figure out where displaced file-sharers will go after. Some will merely find the latest Limewire client and continue file-sharing anyway. Others could easily just switch to Frostwire so as to keep to the familiar, but still know that development is happening to keep the app prestine.

Some file-sharers might take a bit of a leap and jump on to eMule. Since the eDonkey2000 application is now defunct in terms of development. In fact, one might suggest that a similar situation happened with the war between the two major apps that connected to the ED2K network. One was open source (eMule) and the other was closed source (eDonkey2000), but both connected to the same network. eDonkey2000 (the app) was forced to shut down, but eMule is still around with an active community of developers working on mods of the eMule application. Some suggest that eMule being open source has been the reason it’s stayed alive for so long. Just remember that if you have to connect to the ED2K network (since eMule connects to the Kad network as well which is serverless), then get your servers from a trusted source – though it is a good way to get connected in to Kad.

Then there is WinMX. Yes, after all these years, there is still an active community of WinMXworld. Typically, users can connect to WinMX via the help of WinMXWorld where patches can be retrieved to get the client and network working again.

There is also Shareaza. It’s a client that can connect to multiple networks at once. While not really recommended for connecting to ED2K servers, there’s still both the Gnutella and Gnutella2 networks which is active with users. Since there was a domain issue, potential Shareaza users are better off going to the Sourceforge page instead to get their client. With a strong hashing system, it’s really hard to pollute files as seen on the FastTrack (Kazaa) network.

If BitTorrent users are screaming “BitTorrent! BitTorrent! Will someone please think of the BitTorrent! As an alternative of course!” at this point, yes, BitTorrent is theoretically an alternative, though not as compatible of an alternative to the other P2P apps simply because of the structure of the networks. Many users either use Vuze or uTorrent. The question is, what sites to use? If some like to work on getting access to their files, then there’s always a plethora of private sites. Unfortunately, public sites have been increasingly hard to get. There’s ThePirateBay where, after multiple attempts to shut the site down, the site continues to live. There is also the ISOHunt search engine that recently seems to be legally forced to block US residents these days *cough*proxie*cough*.

Let’s not forget the fight club of file-sharing, UseNet. Oops, I talked about UseNet.

What about IRC file-sharing clients?

It’s unclear where Limewire users will go if they do choose to go elsewhere. Still, after going through so many alternatives, once can’t help but be reminded at just how unwinnable the war on file-sharing really is.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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