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What is Gnutella?

On March 14, 2000, at 11:31 AM EST, a message was posted on the underground hacker website Slashdot indicating that AOL’s Nullsoft division has released an “open-source Napster clone” named Gnutella, capable of searching for and downloading any kind of computer file. On March 15, 2000, at 4:25 EST, Wired News reported that Nullsoft’s distribution of the “file-sharing software tool which could be even more potent than Napster” had closed down, suggesting that the reason for this was the potential threat that Gnutella posed to record labels Warner Music and EMI, which were in the midst of merger talks with AOL. However, in the time that the software was available from the Nullsoft site, several thousand downloads took place, and various third parties soon set to work cloning the Nullsoft version of the Gnutella program.These clones were all written to be compatible with the Gnutella protocol established by the Nullsoft program, and could therefore communicate with each other and with the original Nullsoft client.As people began to run these clones as well as unauthorized copies of the original client, a network of Gnutella-compatible applications grew and began to communicate in the decentralized manner that the Gnutella protocol specified. This network, which has grown significantly over the past year, has come to be known as the Gnutella Network.

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All computers running a program utilizing the Gnutella protocol are said to be on the Gnutella Network (gNet). On the World Wide Web, each computer is connected to only one other computer at a time. When a user visits Amazon.com, she is not at Yahoo.com. The two sites are mutually exclusive. On the Gnutella Network, a user is connected to several other computers at once. Information can be received from many sources simultaneously.

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Each computer on the Gnutella Network is connected to a number of other computers (peers).Each of these peers is connect to several other computers. This process continues indefinitely. If a user is connected to 4 computers, each of which are connected to 4 other computers, the total number of computers with which the user is able to communicate with is 4 + 4*4=20. In this case, the messages only travel 2 “hops” along the network.The number of “hops” in a search request is also known as its “time to live” or TTL. In this case, the user’s TTL is 2. If we expand the above example to set our hypothetical user’s TTL to 3, and each computer in the network is connected to 4 new computers, the total number of computers with which she can communicate with is 4 + 4*4 + 4*4*4 = 84. Therefore, the number of computers with which the user can communicate grows exponentially in relation to the increase in TTL of her search requests.  The Gnutella Network, in theory at least, will be able to reach every computer on the Internet through this system of connections.  For a more detailed explanation of how the Gnutella Network operates, please see Understanding Peer-to-Peer Networking and File-Sharing.

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Since there has been a lot of confusion on this point, Lime Wire LLC would like to be very clear on what Gnutella is not. Gnutella is not a web site. It doesn’t contain web sites. The content that is available on the Gnutella Network does not come from web sites or from the publishers of Gnutella-compatible software; it comes from other users running Gnutella-compatible software on their own computers. Gnutella is a networking protocol, which defines a manner in which computers can speak directly to one another in a completely decentralized fashion.Software publishers such as Lime Wire LLC have written and distributed programs which are compatible with the Gnutella protocol, and which therefore allow users to participate in the Gnutella Network.We invite you to download LimeWire for yourself and experience all that the Gnutella Network has to offer.

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