Wirehog P2P Melds Social Networks and File-Sharing
Nov 16, 2004 8:45 AM PT
Two rapidly growing Internet technologies in recent months have been social networks and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. Now three whiz kids have coupled those technologies together with a program released this week called Wirehog.
Wirehog is a P2P application that works in conjunction with thefacebook.com, a social networking Web site for more than 250 colleges and universities.
Both Wirehog and thefacebook.com are the cerebral offspring of three undergrads: Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew K. McCollum of Harvard and Adam D'Angelo of Caltech.
File Sharing with a Twist
Wirehog, now in beta, allows facebook members to trade files with each other, as users trade files with P2P programs such as Kazaa, LimeWire and Grokster, but with a twist.
Programs like Kazaa emphasize searching. You want a file and you search everyone's computer on the P2P network to find it. "There's no searching involved with Wirehog," Zuckerberg told TechNewsWorld. "It's about sharing interesting personal files with your friends."
"A lot of people have tried to do social networking with file-sharing applications," he said. "One reason why ours is perhaps more exciting is because our users don't need to develop their own social networks around this. You don't need to add people as friends when you get on to Wirehog because of the integration with facebook."
Friendship Trumps File-Sharing
Wirehog is meant to emphasize friendships, not file-sharing, Zuckerberg maintained. With other P2P applications that have social functions, there's a barrier created by the necessity to add people as friends once you install the program, he explained.
"That creates a different kind of network," he said, "because the people you're adding as friends isn't based on anything social but on who has the most files. But if you base the file-sharing application on an existing social network, then that social connection already exists."
Echos of Aimster
According to Greg Bildson, COO of LimeWire, a P2P software maker based in New York City, the blending of P2P and social networks has been a hot subject recently.
"Social networks are a special type of group with useful trust and taste relationships," he told TechNewsWorld via e-mail. "You will tend to trust your friends and share various tastes."
"People in your social network will tend to help you develop your taste and introduce you to new ideas," he explained. "It is very natural to want to share information and files with these people."
He asserted that getting the interaction of social networks and P2P right is going to take a lot of work and experimentation. "WireHog sounds like a preliminary step in this direction," he said.
"I would expect this area to evolve slowly over the next 5 years," he added, "but it has a lot of potential for blockbuster applications."
Jarad Carleton, an IT Industry Analyst with Frost & Sullivan in Palo Alto, California, likened Wirehog to Aimster, a P2P application that piggybacked on AOL's instant messaging software.
"The theory was that you could more safely trade copyrighted material if you were only trading within a trusted community of friends that you choose to include in your contact list," he told TechNewsWorld via e-mail.
"It's a good concept for avoiding prosecution by the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] or the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America]," he contended. "However, I would expect both trade organizations to take a close look at this software and work to find a way to possibly tap into some of the activity on the network to see what is being traded."
He sees Wirehog as a great way to collaborate on projects without leaving home.
For some of those projects, he explained, there will be a need for an easy way to transfer large files to classmates without running into file size restrictions with programs such as Yahoo Instant Messenger.
"This would be a useful and very legitimate reason to use this type of software on campus and is in fact what corporations have wanted from P2P software in the corporate environment," he observed.
"Regardless of the original intentions," he added, "I'd have to say that the RIAA and the MPAA will view this software as a potential threat, and if the creators are not careful, they could find themselves facing lawsuits from the RIAA just as Aimster did."
Although the RIAA hadn't scrutinized Wirehog in depth yet spokesperson Jonathan Levy told TechNewsWorld via e-mail that "the laws remain the same whether it's 'sharing' copyrighted works without permission to one person or to a million people."
"It's a violation of federal law and subjects a person to potential civil and criminal liability," he declared. "Not only is it illegal, it deprives those who produce the music the ability to benefit from their creative efforts."