INTERVIEW WITH GENE KAN
KN: Gnutella is truly revolutionary – it fosters independent, distributed nodes of information, a concept at odds with the traditional client-server relationship where there are central servers and Web addresses. Considering the rampant and inevitable commercialization of the Web – which largely depends on the ability to track and profile users – do you think Gnutella will remain in the discredited realm of so-called MP3 pirates and hackers? Or is this the way we will all be sharing files in the near future?
Gene Kan: We hope Gnutella will come out of the underground world of MP3 traffic and hackers. It has the potential to be the next thing in searching: real time searching. It's such a new idea, and Gnutella is right at the forefront of it.
KN: Are you familiar with Ian Clark’s FreeNet concept? What are the differences between his technology and the one introduced with Gnutella? For that matter, how is Gnutella different from other file–sharing programs such as Napster, CuteMX, iMesh, and Scour Exchange?
Gene Kan: I'm not really familiar with FreeNet. I suspect we're not that much different.
KN: Do you think an open-source, fully distributed search and download system is a threat to lumbering search monsters such as Yahoo, Lycos, Excalibur, etc.? Or is it even fair to compare them?
Gene Kan: Yes. Real time search technologies are going to revolutionize the way we search the web. No more waiting for the robot to decide to search your site.
No more hoping that the Yahoo! editors decide your site is worthy. Instant searching is the way of the future.
It's absurd that with the Internet moving along at the speed of light, web robots move at the speed of snails.
KN: I’ve visited the Gnutella IRC channel. There seems to be a lot of people there confused about how to configure the application – especially in regard to IP addresses and port selection. Do you plan on making the app more user friendly, possibly include some help files or documentation?
Gene Kan: Yes. Future versions will be more accessible to users. Right now it's really just a developer community, with only supergeeks able to use this technology, but the technology is ready for primetime. Just not the software interfaces. Everyone's working on that.
KN: As you know, the music industry is up in arms about file-sharing technology. They’re suing Napster and going after sites that trade in illegal MP3s. It seems that the RIAA, though, has changed its tactics a little – instead of concentrating on lawsuits, they want to push secure copy-protection technologies, developed under the auspices of the Secure Digital Music Initiative. Do you think this will slow the trade in MP3 file sharing? Is it even possible?
Gene Kan: Possibly. We'll see if they get any traction. I think they are definitely going to do something to ensure a spot in the world of downloadable music for themselves. They'll do something. And it will be soon.
KN: I assume that you have read Michael Robertson’s (of MP3.com) diatribe against Gnutella and other file-sharing programs. What do you think of his suggestion of baiting and switching the content pool – in other words, uploading adulterated MP3s with commercial and voice-over content? Do you think Robertson is being disingenuous or simply reacting to music industry pressure? After all, the RIAA is suing MP3.com for its Listening Service and Beam-it programs.
Gene Kan: Bah. I think he is just eating some sour grapes because of the failure of his company as a digital music distribution channel. It's in his interests to discredit all others. And he gets brownie points with the RIAA for it.
KN: It would seem that there is an orchestrated media campaign directed against Gnutella. The words “illegal MP3” and “file-sharing” are often interchangeable in many articles. How do you react to this? What can be done to counter all the negative press?
Gene Kan: I think the press is coming around. They see that this is more than just piracy. They see is for the technology it is: real time searches.
KN: Is it possible that Gnutella will be labeled a bandwidth hog and ISPs will begin to forbid its use. I know, this is a bogus argument – after all, I download large files on my cable network every day without complaint – but one that may be used if, for instance, the RIAA decides to go after Gnutella. Is there a way to avoid this?
Gene Kan: Well, you paid for the bandwidth, right? You should get to use it. But to answer that, no, I don't think this can be banned. It's not like Napster.
There is no known range of IP addresses that Gnutella is running on. It's running on everyone's computer. So ISPs are powerless to stop it. They are just going to have to come to grips with the oversale of their capacity and do something to make good on the agreement they have to sell you bandwidth.
KN: Is there anything AOL can do to stem the flow of Gnutella releases and clones? After all, it was developed under their auspices. Or is this covered under GNU, the open-source licensing system? Ironically, Gnutella may be considered a Frankenstein project by AOL who, after all, is likely worried about protecting the music assets of Time-Warner-EMI.
Gene Kan: Nope. It's not illegal to reverse engineer a protocol, and that's what has happened. There is no legal recourse that I can imagine that would be able to stop the flow of Gnutella client software. And even if there was, I doubt it would do anything. Something else would just come along and replace Gnutella.
AOL owns no part of the clients which are coming about now. Absolutely no part. All implementations other than the original Gnullsoft ones are "clean" implementations.
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