Somewhere on an old backup disc buried under a stack of magazines, I still have a copy of the eDonkey file-sharing client. Last month its creator, MetaMachine, agreed to give $30 million to the RIAA in order to duck threatened litigation. The eDonkey2000 Web site has since disappeared, replaced by a belligerent message intended to scare away visitors by implying that they are being watched. Why did eDonkey2000 fail in an arena where proprietary projects are still thriving?
eDonkey2000 was one of the oldest still active peer-to-peer programs, predating the completely decentralized network model. Although it was Napster that blew open the door to P2P, eDonkey did popularize some features that proved important to later systems, such as identifying files by their MD4 hash, which served both as a file integrity check and as a fraud prevention measure, and the ed2k: URI scheme, which simplified searches by allowing users to link to files on the network from HTML pages.
eDonkey2000 was among the first (if not the first) to implement both ideas, and a member of the first generation of multi-source transfer applications. All are now staples in file-sharing, and practically a given in newly conceived protocols.
Moreover, all of these features live on in the eDonkey-compatible clones that sprang up as eDonkey2000 evolved from a one-man show into a corporate entity. eMule, xMule, and aMule have taken eDonkey’s Multisource File Transfer Protocol and extended it. MetaMachine, on the other hand, shifted its resources back and forth between eDonkey2000 and its Overnet project, fracturing its own market well before the recording company lawyers started their harassment in 2005.
On the subject of what eDonkey2000′s death would mean for his own project, eMule developer Hendrik Brietkreuz replied, in short, none. Instead, he thought, the real question ought to be why anyone was still using eDonkey2000. Despite its age and shortcomings, eDonkey2000 still had plenty of users. Answering his own question, Brietkreuz said, “I suppose there are many reasons: it is a very stable and large network” using a “feature-rich” protocol. “So, if you have a large network, nice protocol, and good software to access it, why would you not stick to it?”