Share And Share Alike
Napster was once the most popular of all websites. Within a year, the site was pulling in 60 million visitors every month. However, Napster came down with a crash in the form of a court-ordered shut-down, due to copyright violations. The website did manage to rise like a phoenix from the flames albeit in a new incarnation in 2003, and is now a legal (paying) music download site.
Sky's The Limit
The first version of Napster succeeded because it supplied a product that no one else was offering: a huge database of free music. The sky was the limit and there was no song you could not obtain.
Some people feel that Napster's weakness was in its architecture which made it very easy for the courts to shut it down once they deemed that Napster was guilty of copyright infringement. Gnutella is the new Napster and has learned to walk a fine line to avoid the problems once incurred by Napster. It's noteworthy that Napster's former users have no problem with the idea of copyright infringement and most of them were fine about glomming onto an alternative which manages to skirt the issue, although just barely.
In general, web servers hold information and process information requests. The various browsers allow users to connect to servers and see information on websites. Those sites which receive much traffic may have to pay for many hundreds of server machines in order to be able to process all the requests they receive.
Napster was different because it introduced the system of peer-to-peer file sharing. People stored files they wished to share on their computers and shared them with other people, direct. Napster provided software that made this direct type of sharing possible. Each user in effect became a small server.
Today, Gnutella has taken over where the old Napster ended. The major similarities between the two networks are:
*The user has files on his hard disk he wishes to share and makes them available to all on a peer-to-peer network.
*Users run the network software in order to connect to the network.
The main differences between Gnutella and the old Napster are:
*There is no central database to keep track of all files available through the Gnutella network. Instead, all machines plugged into the network speak to each other about available files through a built-in search engine.
*The user can access Gnutella through a variety of client applications, making it more difficult for the courts to shut down the process. The courts would need to find a way to block the entire Gnutella network traffic at the ISP level of the Internet in order to stop all the users from sharing files.