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04/28 2007 | 12:26 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Ohio University announced this week that they are completely banning all file sharing on campus. Violators will get their Internet access cut off and possibly face disciplinary action. Ohio University previously made headlines for being the school with the highest number of music piracy complaints in the country.

The problem of file sharing on campus is hardly new. Ever since Napster, administrators have tried to stop the swapping with various technical roadblocks. P2P enthusiasts usually react with protest, referring to that Ubuntu ISO they really, really need to get via BitTorrent. Wink Wink, nudge nudge.

But nowadays P2P isn’t just about The Pirate Bay anymore. There are major motion pictures for sale on BitTorrent.com, there are Showtime downloads on the Azureus-powered Vuze.com, and then there is Joost. Ohio University’s Anti-P2P policy could spell trouble for all of them – and in turn put the school in an awkward position. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

04/27 2007 | 01:41 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It's been only a couple of weeks since word got out about a new Firefox Bittorrent extension called Foxtorrent. Yesterday Red Swoosh released the Fox into the wild, announcing both Mac and Linux support and version 1.0 on the same day.

foxtorrent

I've been testing Foxtorrent 1.0 for a couple of hours now on both Windows and OS X - and I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. A well-done Firefox Bittorrent extension clearly has potential, and the fact that Red Swoosh is now owned by Akamai makes this even more interesting for the whole P2P space. I just wish they hadn't rushed to release this so soon.

First of all, Foxtorrent really is easy to install and requires zero configuration to run. That's a welcome change from most P2P programs. It's also surprisingly easy on the eye for a browser extension. No busy toolbar, no sidebar that takes over valuable screen space. Instead it just waits in the background until you click on a Torrent link.

Foxtorrent then displays the download status right within the browser. Not as detailed as Azureus, but enough to get the job done. And there is a little surprise: A stream button. Red Swoosh extended the Bittorrent protocol with a progressive downloading capability that makes it possible to start watching a movie before it downloaded completely. Or at least that's the idea. I never could get anything to stream. Instead the DivX web player Red Swoosh recommends just stalled.

Unfortunately that wasn't the only problem I encountered. The windows version of Foxtorrent has some major memory leaks that require regular restarts.

Foxtorrent also has problems downloading content from some websites, a problem that can be attributed to the architecture of the software. Every torrent file gets downloaded via a Red Swoosh server, which makes it possible to download the content both through the regular Bittorrent protocol and the Red Swoosh P2P protocol.

Update: I've been told that the Redswoosh server actually never touches the Torrent files. Foxtorrent just uses the link prefix "edn.redswoosh.net" to trigger the internal client, which then uses the traditional Bittorrent protocol to download the content.

Unfortunately this doesn't yet work for Torrents that hosted on SSL-secured servers - which essentially means that Foxtorrent users can't download anything from Bittorrent.com.

This wouldn't be that bad if people just could download that content with another Bittorrent client of their choice. But Foxtorrent does something really odd: It overwrites every Torrent file you download with HTML code, effectively making it unusable and establishing itself as the only working Bittorrent solution on your system.

Now I don't think Red Swoosh did this on purpose, even though it seems to be right out of the rulebook for the Balkanization of Bittorrent. It's probably just a bug. But it's a biggie - and not something that should have made its way into a version 1.0.



04/26 2007 | 03:54 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Red Swoosh just released version 1.0 of their browser-based Bittorrent client Foxtorrent, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux-based Firefox users on their new website Foxtorrent.com. There's also source code for the project available at Google Code.

Word about Foxtorrent first got out in March when an early beta version found its way on the web. Foxtorrent has been in a closed beta test since then.

Now the folks at Red Swoosh felt it was time to get the Fox out there. From the new Foxtorrent blog:

"This release represents a complete, functional, usable 1.0 product and marks our official entry into the BitTorrent world."

Remarkable about Foxtorrent is the fact that Red Swoosh is now owned by Akamai - a connection I've written before about here.

Update: Check here for a complete Foxtorrent 1.0 review.

04/25 2007 | 02:24 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Yahoo launched their new lyrics offering yesterday in cooperation with Gracenote. The company says it now can give its users access to "song lyrics for hundreds of thousands of songs from all five major publishers".

Apparently the license doesn't include dirty words though. Here's the text of a recent Ying Yang Twins track, as displayed by Yahoo Lyrics:

Yahoo Lyrics

04/25 2007 | 01:47 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The music industry has been trying to shut down Allofmp3.com for quite some time, and lately it looked like they were about to succeed any minute. All of the big credit card companies have stopped processing payments for the Russian MP3 download site. Allofmp3.com even got in trouble with third party payment processors, effectively cutting off most of its funding.

Allofmp3 does have a plan B though. Some users that have been trying to add money to their account are reporting that they are told to go to MP3Sparks.com instead.

mp3sparks

So what's MP3Sparks.com? It's a website supiciously similiar to Allofmp3.com. They offer cheap MP3 downloads from major label artists, feature a very familiar layout and navigation and even use the same text as Allofmp3 in their help section. And, guess what: Your Allofmp3.com login data works just fine.

Some users are reporting that they are able to refill their balance through MP3Sparks.com with a regular credit card. Others are greeted with a familiar error message:

"Unfortunately credit card payment is not available at the moment. Please come back later or try another method of payment."

MP3Sparks isn't the only Allofmp3 offspring popping up these days though. Inofficial Allofmp3 user forums are buzzing with news about a site called Memphismembers.com that seems to be run by Allofmp3 as well, going as far as copying the complete Allofmp3 interface except for the logo.

Memphismembers is a semi-stealth, invite only project. Selected users have been receiving invites with personalized login Urls directly from the Allofmp3 team. Others have been swapping invites Gmail-style Joost-style through user forums.

Members of the new site apparently get a 15 dollar welcome gift certificate as well as a line of credit to make up for possible payment option glitches. Users are reporting that they can refill their account balance with regular credit cards through payment companies like E-Centru.

There is a more detailed review of Memphismembers on the the AOM3 Blog.

One thing that strikes me a surprising is how much money users spent on Allofmp3 in recent years. One user says:

"I've put about $800 over the last 18 months, which I don't suppose sets any records, but seems like a reasonable amount."

800 dollars within 18 months is way more than most people spend on CDs, let alone iTunes downloads. Is there really no way to give hardcore music buyers like this guy a Emusic-style premium MP3 subscription that is licensed by the major labels?



04/24 2007 | 02:00 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Newteevee recently wrote about a new tool called Sharemonkey that aims to combine P2P with the world of traditional online retailers. Sharemonkey checks the hash value of a song you downloaded and then suggests legal purchasing options for the whole album.

From their website:

'We know the album origin of 500,000 of the most shared mp3s. We've matched more than 200,000 p2p movies; cams, rips, trailers and extras, to the DVDs they originally came from, and we're matching more every day. We can tell you what album, dvd, game, application or book your download came from - all you do is right click on a file in Windows and choose "Where is this file from?".'

Sharemonkey is available as a stand-alone application for Windows as well as a plugin for the Windows P2P applications Shareaza and Emule. The company is also partnering with P2P search engine Swarmz.com.

The idea behind this is hardly new though. Bitzi.com has been offering file recognition from within P2P applications like Limewire and Shareaza for years. Musicbrainz has been working hard on a music metadata catalogue that now includes the acoustic fingerprints of more than five million tracks. Both sites include ecommerce options.

listenseeker
The Listen.com Listenseeker. Click here for full view.

And of course one shouldn't forget about a little music startup called Listen.com that once launched an application to search, identify and buy media from within the original Napster P2P application. They quickly figured out that you don't make too many friends when you try to make money with unauthorized downwloads, so they ended up launching Listen.com Rhapsody instead - and the rest is history.

04/22 2007 | 01:39 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Publishing your own videos via BitTorrent used to be tough. It either involved tinkering with your own tracker server – something only the brave and nerdy ever attempt – or casting your anchor in one of the Pirate Bays of the world, where your masterpiece would be poised to reside between pictures of top-heavy “girls from your area” and advertising for sex chats and fake Rolex watches. Oh, those raunchy pirates.

Luckily, a new wave of legal P2P websites has also given videographers more options to distribute their content. The two most popular platforms are BitTorrent.com and Vuze.com (also know as the Azureus content layer). So which one is better for user-generated content? We tested them both to find out. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

04/19 2007 | 02:38 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Swiss-based Rapidshare AG has said this week that it is suing the Geman rights holder association GEMA. Rapidshare AG is operating the platform Rapidshare.com, which recently has been the target of an injunction initiated by GEMA, forcing Rapidshare to stop the distribution of works from the GEMA catalogue.

Rapidshare now wants to user their own lawsuit to clarify the legal situation regarding free file hosting in Germany. A press release quotes Rapdishare CEO Bobby Chang saying:

"The murky state of law is devastating for our industry."

GEMA sued Rapidshare back in January due to the distribution of MP3 files though Rapidshare.com. The organization, which represents the rights of authors and performers, won a peliminary injunction that forced Rapidhsare to cede the distribution of these files.

Rapidshare appealed this decision, but lost the appeal in March in front of the District Court of Cologne. The court also forced Rapidshare to actively monitor uploads for works of the GEMA catalogue - something that is not only close to impossible, but also not covered by German copyright law, according to Rapidshare. Chang argues that people have the right to make backup copies of their music. His company couldn't differentiate between such legal uses of MP3s and unauthorized distribution.

Chang instead wants the court to set in place rules that are similiar to the Safe Harbor Provisions of the DMCA in the United States. These DMCA provisions shield web hosting providers from the actions of their users. Says Chang:

"We are confident that it is possible to solve the conflict with GEMA while at the same time paying tribute to innovation."

04/18 2007 | 03:53 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Listening Post is reporting today that Limewire is negotiating deals for a digital music store.

Now if I had to take a wild guess, I'd say that the store will look somewhat like this:

magnetmix

Disclaimer: No, this is not a leaked screenshot of the upcoming Limewire download store. It's a beta interface for Limewire's Magnetmix download platform that was briefly available online in early 2006. But I wouldn't be too surprised to see some of those elements integrated into the upcoming download store.

magnetmix 2

04/18 2007 | 01:31 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The website of the Harvard Business School features an interesting interview with Ramon Casadesus-Masanell, who is a professor at that very school and who has been researching the competitive marketplace of P2P and iTunes. Casadesus-Masanell has especially been looking into the question of how Apple can compete with free P2P networks - and his answers might surprise you:

"Our analysis reveals that, contrary to intuition, prices low enough to "kill" p2p are not optimal in large markets. The industry is better off setting higher prices and attracting those consumers ready to pay due to congestion."

He does however believe that P2P won't go away, but will be getting better and more convenient. So those higher prices might just be a temporary boost to the bottom line. Casadesus-Masanell thinks that in the long run record labels need to switch to a completely different business model:

"At a more concrete level, given that p2p file sharing networks are likely to improve in performance as Internet infrastructure develops, the content industry must make tough choices regarding their revenue models. Moves towards monetizing products not subject to costless replication and distribution, such as live concerts and merchandising (for music) and product placements (for movies and network shows), will become essential for the financial health of media companies."

(via Coolfer)

04/17 2007 | 01:02 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Speaking of Red Swoosh: Akamai did get some new opportunities when they bought the P2P company, but they also got themselves a potential conflict with some open source Bittorrent developers.

Red Swoosh has been working on a browser-based Bittorrent client called Foxtorrent. Turns out there is already another Foxtorrent project out there that is working on a Firefox frontend for Azureus. A few days ago the Foxtorrent members wrote an open email to the Red Swoosh folks:

"Gentlepeople: Please change the name of your software to something else. The name FoxTorrent is already taken. "

Doesn't sound too threatening, does it? Which is why I think Akamai should be good sports about it too - and just drop the disputed name. After all, there are plenty of other names still available. Akamaitorrent would be an obvious choice, but it's a little too long if you ask me.

But what about Akatorrent? Sounds cool, hasn't been used - and it even offers some opportunities for word plays, as in:

"We use an efficient content delivery technology (aka torrent)."

04/16 2007 | 02:35 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Akamai's Red Swoosh deal continues to make waves. Om sees it as a sign for P2P becoming a mature technology that is starting to find its way into almost everything from VOIP to video delivery.

One detail that I find interesting is that Red Swoosh lately has been working on their own browser-based Bittorrent client called Foxtorrent, which merges the Bittorrent protocol with the Red Swoosh P2P Content Delivery Network.

Why is this relevant? Red Swoosh used to cater to the very same audience as Akamai, simply offering a different type of technology for pretty much the same goal: Moving lots of bits for big web platforms.

The Silicon Valley-based startup has been spending lots of energy shifting focus lately though. Red Swoosh founder Travis Kalanick had some blunt words to say about the reasons for this shift twelve months ago:

"For a start-up, rigidity is a death-knell. Especially for Swoosh. . . . we started our company 4 years too early. . . only now is the market catching up to our ideas and technology. That’s potentially 4 years of rigidity built into my company. We need renewal as bad as any large tech company that’s gotten used to business as usual.

Re-launch your company. Rewrite your core client software; rewrite your backend systems, re-think and redesign your website and customer touch-points. Renew your thinking. Renew your inspiration. Renew your creativity. Breathe life into your company. Innovate your routine. Rebrand. Refocus. Regenerate."


What followed was a beta launch of Red Swoosh 2.0, offering P2P content delivery technology to end users without big pockets. This relaunch was clearly geared towards bloggers, video podcasters and other creative folks in the field of user generated content. And with that, the business model started to shift from licensing deals to advertising.

Red Swoosh 2.0 hasn't really gotten too much traction so far. The technology clearly has it's advantages to Bittorrent, especially if you don't want to deal with the hassles of setting up your own Tracker server. But it's hard to convince people to install yet antoher piece of software just to get some free content.

This is where Foxtorrent comes in. A solid Bittorrent implementation for Firefox could help the Redswoosh team to gain some significant traction - and in turn push their own technology as a copy and paste P2P solution for bloggers and podcasters.

Now how does Akamai fit into this picture? To be honest, we don't know yet. The recent press release seems to focus on Red Swoosh's established business:

"Red Swoosh's technology is designed to empower content publishers and distributors to manage and monetize large-file distribution to edge devices, such as set top boxes and personal computers."


To me the key seems to be that edge devices are run by end users who are increasingly becoming content producers as well. Akamai could profit off of this by getting a whole new customer base, and potentially a new revenue model as well. Or they could just see Red Swoosh as a way to save some bucks while moving the same old bits for the same old platforms.

04/14 2007 | 11:31 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
When talking about Joost, people tend to focus on its P2P infrastructure, its media center-like interface and its content deals. Now those are all valid points, but the real key to Joost’s success may be something else: A metadata framework that might just revolutionize the way we watch television. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

04/13 2007 | 07:33 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Viral advertising isn't easy: Universal Music learned this lesson the hard way a few weeks ago when they tried to spread the word about the new Nine Inch Nails record with leaked MP3s that in turn got a few bloggers in trouble with the the label's very own lawyers.

Music played only a small role in similarly disastrous campaign that perfume giant Coty recently started in Germany. Coty hired a company called DKD to spread the word about a new Calvin Klein fragrance. DKD in turn hired a few young authors to develop something the company now calls a "web soap opera".

dkd

The writers assumed the identities of Joe, Alina, Miriam, Katharina and Tomekk - young hipsters that supposedly have incredibly exciting lifes. One is a stweardess, another one helps to edit movies, a third is an amateur musician, and every one of them is incredibly photogenic.

They all start blogging at about the same time, documenting their exciting lifes, making friends with others in the blogosphere and sometimes musing about this new CK fragrance that everyone seems to be speaking about these days. Or at least everyone who gets paid by DKD. Later they meet up, start to develop feelings for each other, become jealous. Typical soap material.

Of course all of this wouldn't make sense without an audience, which is why Joe and his friends start to comment in other German blogs. They target a few dozen of the most read weblogs and leave more or less useless comments of the "me too" variety. All of those comments point back to the campaign blogs, and many of them feature a variation of the CK fragrance ad slogan.

This goes unnoticed for some time, but then two bloggers are becoming suspicious. They start to do some research, compile evidence and finally make their case, revealing that DKD has been spamming the German blogosphere in the name of Coty.

Obviously many bloggers weren't too amused. Some even started billing DKD up to 19.000 USD for placing advertising links on their blogs. DKD quickly tried to hide some too obvious traces and removed a description of the campaign from their website. But the cat was already out of the bag, and soon mainstream online magazines started reporting (disclaimer: I wrote an article about this as well).

Today DKD and Coty finally came clear about the campaign, admitting on DKD's website that the five bloggers were part of an "online telenovela" that was "playing with (the question) fake or no fake?" According to the news release, uncovering the real identity of the participating bloggers was always part of the plan - a claim that is somewhat questionable because the "blog soap" will continue for another week or so.

The news release does admit that the campaign caused quite a stir in the German blogosphere, even raising the rhetorical question whether the campaign was a "success or a flop". Well, let's take a look at the German Google search results for the perfume in question: Only one search result on the first page actually refers to the perfume. The rest consists of more or less vulgar swearing against DKD and Coty, including a journalist-blogger from one of Germany's leading business newspapers making a word play on Calvin Klein and small genitals.

If that's what Coty calls success, then I don't want to see their failures.

04/10 2007 | 01:29 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I'm back from a quick trip to Vancouver, and busy browsing through thousands of headlines in my feedreader. One story that got my attentions was an interview Lifehacker did with EMI Senior Vice President Jeanne Meyer about the company's decision to sell unprotected MP3s.

There's a few aspects that I find especially interesting about this interview. First of all, Meyer makes it clear that the Apple deal is not exclusive at all:

"Apple is the first of what we plan to be many partners, they're making it available in AAC others will be able to put it whatever format, codec or bit rate they choose."

Also notable is the fact that EMI won't be using any watermarking. I think that makes sense. Watermarking has been the carrot some online music vendors use to assure labels that MP3s are safe - but the consequences of using them are in most cases unclear.

What do you do if you find a watermarked MP3 online. What if you find a few hundred, all with the same watermark? Sue the customer who bought them? After all, he might just have lost his MP3 player.

Mind you, this question is not just academic. I've heard of a German indie label who watermarked their pre-release promo CDs and then discovered some of those songs in a file sharing network. Finding out who was the cause of the leak was the easy part. Deciding what to do with that person turned out to be much harder.

04/07 2007 | 10:53 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Imagine a digital video recorder that offers you a few terabytes of hard disk space, automatically recording thousands of shows. Now imagine the same DVR connected to a P2P network of like-minded recording devices, giving you access to virtually any show on television and in turn making The Pirate Bay look like a Blockbuster with empty shelves.

Sounds like crazy talk? Not to Tom Loosemore, who is a senior manager at the BBC’s new media operation. Loosemore spends most of his time future-proofing the BBC’s many web properties, but a few hours of his work week are reserved for creative tinkering. That’s when he comes up with stuff that sounds like every couch potato’s wet dream. Continue reading at Newterevee.com.

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04/03 2007 | 12:41 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Arctic Monkeys have been hailed as one of the first bands who got famous on Myspace. It wasn't exactly the grassroots PR campaign some people want it to be - after all, the band has stated that they didn't even know what Myspace was when their single topped the charts in the UK.

arctic monkeys

(The Arctic Monkeys - photo CC Frida Borjeson)

This doesn't mean that Myspace didn't do anything for the Monkeys. It just wasn't done by them, but by some fans who set up profiles for the band, spread the music and essentially bypassed radio to get them popular.

Leaked music has been good to the band in the past, but apparently they don't feel like they can make use of it anymore. The Times is reporting that the Arctic Monkeys are treating their newest release like a state secret:

"Security surrounding Favourite Worst Nightmare, the hotly anticipated follow-up, is such that music writers must surrender to Arctic Monkeys’ London HQ for an advance hearing."

The article goes on talking about bands like Bloc Party that have been profiting from MP3 and Myspace promotion, but now have been hiring Anti-P2P companies to stop the trading of their new releases. It quotes private copyright enforcer John Giacobbi of Web Sheriff with the words:

"They were looking at up to one million illegal MP3 song files spreading of an album which was supposed to break the band internationally."

Of course one could argue that one million MP3s files are a good sign that the band is having their break ...

(via Slyck)

04/02 2007 | 02:14 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
No, I don't have any more Joost invites. Guess people will just have to wait until early May whenever Joost comes out of beta. Unfortunately watching the Joost commercial that recently popped up up on Youtube doesn't really make up for the real thing either.

It did however help me to discover some great Joost interviews that someone posted to Youtube two months ago. The interviews seem to be part of a series called "Behind The Scenes at The Venice Project". I'm not sure who did them, or why they have been completely overlooked - each video only has about 300 to 700 views so far. But the clips are definitely worth a look.

The interview below is featuring Henrik Werdelin, EVP at Joost. You'll find interviews with Joost CTO Dirk-Willem van Gulik, Operational Engineering Director Sander van Zoest and Co-founder Janus Friis directly on Youtube.

Update
: Looks like the folks at Joost did those videos themselves. There are better quality versions available at the official Joost Blog (Thanks, Matt!)



Update: Check here for Joost invites.