File Sharers Deserting Kazaa’s FastTrack Protocol

FastTrack, once the darling of online file-sharers, appears to be losing its popularity.

Reports in recent weeks — as well as data gathered by Internet traffic tracker Alexa — show a marked decline in files swapped on networks like Kazaa that use the FastTrack protocol.

According to information posted at the Web site of IT Innovations and Concepts (ITIC), a Canadian piracy-monitoring outfit, during the month of May the FastTrack platform was deserted by more than 16 percent of its active users.

Precipitous Drop

New favorites among online file-sharers are Overnet and eDonkey, ITIC said.

The ITIC findings are similar to those in a study released at the end of May by Canadian network-monitoring company Sandvine. That study showed Kazaa’s share of traffic in the United States had dropped to 20 percent from 90 percent and in Europe had fallen to 20 percent from 70 percent.

In addition, Alexa shows Kazaa’s traffic ranking dropping significantly in the last three months. The network’s average ranking during that period was 2,835, while today it is 3,539.

P2P Pasha

Alexa also reports that Kazaa’s reach — the number of Internet users per million who use Kazaa — has dropped 36 percent in the last three months.

Despite these apparent trends, FastTrack is still the pasha of peer-to-peer (P2P) networking, according to the Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA), an industry group located in Arlington, Virginia.

“Our data suggests that P2P usage is continuing to expand globally,” DCIA CEO Martin C. Lafferty told TechNewsWorld via e-mail. “While interim market-share adjustments clearly occur in response to specific promotions, new software releases, and other factors, there are no signs of seismic shifts in the overall industry structure.”

Plagued with Problems

“FastTrack,” Lafferty said, “continues to have the largest overall market share, and Gnutella and others comprise a strong and growing second entrant category.”

According to industry insiders, though, Kazaa is plagued by several problems that are trashing its traffic numbers.

“I hear that the user experience has really degenerated,” Wayne Rosso, former CEO of Optisoft, a P2P software maker located in Madrid, Spain, told TechNewsWorld via e-mail.

Too Greedy

“The network has been corrupted beyond belief,” Rosso maintained. “It’s become rife with garbage files and has slowed tremendously.”

He noted that spyware packaged with Kazaa continues to be a sore point with users of the service.

“Kazaa has built a reputation for being full of bundled software,” Greg Bildson, COO of LimeWire, a P2P software maker in New York City, told TechNewsWorld via e-mail. “It seems like they became a little too greedy.”

Technology Snags

Kazaa also has problems as a technology, Bildson asserted.

Its technology has been stagnating since its founders moved on to developing software for Internet phone calls, he contended.

“Kazaa has not done much in the way of innovation,” he said. “At the same time, alternative file-sharing networks, such as Gnutella, have made major strides.”

Closed System

According to Bildson, Kazaa, because it is a closed protocol, simply might be suffering an inevitable decline. “Open protocols are what tend to survive and thrive over the long term on the Internet,” he argued.

“Open protocols benefit consumers by giving them more choice and not locking them in to one company that might insist that they install spyware,” he explained.

Open protocols also entice developers from all over the world to participate in their evolution, which leads to greater innovation, he added.

Sue You Campaign

Of course, Kazaa also is afflicted with something else that competing networks have largely avoided. “FastTrack users have clearly been targeted by the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] Sue You campaign,” observed Rosso.

“We believe that our legal efforts have had a significant impact,” RIAA spokesperson Jonathan Lamy told TechNewsWorld via e-mail. “Awareness that unauthorized downloading is against the law has doubled and the legal online music marketplace is beginning to take off.

“Additionally,” he said, “according to many third-party analyses, traffic on pirate P2P networks has declined, at least in the U.S.”

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