CES 2010: Conversation with Tom “Slyck” Mennecke

CES 2010: Conversation with Tom “Slyck” Mennecke

While CES is primarily a occasion to see new gadgets and new software, it is also a gathering of hundreds of thousands of technology enthusiasts, both professional and hobbyist.  Visitors come from all over the US and the world, and it can often make for some great conversations about the devices we love (and sometimes hate).  At this year’s CES, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the longest-serving and most knowledgeable observers of the file-sharing scene around, Tom “Slyck” Mennecke of slyck.com.  Surrounded as we were by thousands of flat-screen TV’s and Internet connected media gadgets, we couldn’t help but have a conversation about the content that will likely fuel many, if not most of those devices, that is, files obtained by file-sharing networks, from Bittorrent to Usenet to direct download sites.  It was, I think, a somewhat unusual discussion for this year’s CES 2010, as there was little to no open acknowledgement of the overwhelming presence of unauthorized content on the Internet and the hard drives of the likely consumers of all that new hardware (aside from some tech policy panels I’ll be writing about in the future).

Even after all these years (slyck.com went online in August 2000, called slyway.com at first) Mennecke still finds the file-sharing community to be endlessly fascinating.  As Mennecke says “we’ve come a long way from the days of Napster and Gnutella,” and new “big things” keep coming up, even as Bittorrent continues to dominate after all these years.  Mennecke thinks the big developments in the near future will inevitably be centered around the proposed movement of ISP’s into copyright enforcement, as has started in some European countries and could spread to the US as well.  If ISP’s step in with “deep packet inspection,” filtering, or “graduated response” aka “3 strikes” policies, Mennecke expects rapid responses from the file-sharing community.  “The sheer brute force that the community can marshall in numbers” against any new technological barriers to file-sharing guarantees in Mennecke’s mind that the ISP-centered plans will fare no better than the mass lawsuits of the RIAA/MPAA, or the attempted fake file floods of companies like MediaDefender, did against the rising popularity of file-sharing online.  As he points out, “we are already seeing new innovations coming to file-sharing right now, that will make the work of the ISP’s that much more difficult, including encryption, SSL, and VPN services like that now offered by Giganews.”  In Mennecke’s view, the resiliency of the community ensures a vigorous response to any coming corporate attack on file-sharing in the US, although as he points out, every country is different, with different laws and broadband infrastructures.  “What might prove true in the US may not be the case in the EU or other countries,” according to Mennecke.

We also discussed a number of other topics in the file-sharing world that continue to amaze Mennecke, notably the surprising survival of many earlier networks and protocols that seem technically outdated yet maintain robust community of users.  “eDonkey is not only going strong today with over 3 million users,” according to Mennecke, “but its shift from a centralized to decentralized and non-corporate structure was a really amazing feat.”  The quality of camcorder captured films is also a trend that Mennecke is impressed with, as the often-derided as virtually unwatchable in theater produced “Cams” have become far more respectable, particularly for films without a lot of movement or action.  “They’re actually pretty decent!”  Mennecke says, which is a statement I would not have expected to hear.

Slyck.com remains a pioneer in the file-sharing world after all these years, and Mennecke’s obvious passion and enthusiasm ensures that it will continue to provide invaluable coverage and information for the community long into the future.