Torrentfreak reported yesterday that the French music industry has sued Soulseek after also taking Vuze, Limewire, the long-defunct Morpheus and the open source hosting site Sourceforge to court. Soulseek has been a well-known secret amongst music sharing enthusiasts for a long time. The system initially just focused on electronic music, but now serves many non-mainstream niches.

I've been following Soulseek for a long time and in fact still have physical copies of the first two Soulseek Records releases in my CD shelf. I also did an early interview with Soulseek founder Nir Arbel in 2002, which at the time got published by the German electronic music magazine De:Bug. Obviously a lot of things have changed since then, but I think at least parts of the interview are still relevant, which is why I decided to re-publish it on P2P Blog in light of the lawsuit, minus a few parts that aren't that interesting to this adience or don't make sense at all anymore six years later.

One should note that I wasn't able to find the original transcript of the interview on such a short notice, which I believe was done through the Soulseek chat. Fortunately someone decided to re-translate it to English after De:Bug published it in German. There is a chance that the back and forth between the two langages introduced a few inaccuracies, but I think it's worth reading nonetheless - especially when t comes to the last question. I tried to get back in touch with Nir today to get an update, but haven't heard anyhihng back. I'll publish an update as soon as I do.

So here we go:

DEBUG: With which filesharing networks did you as a user feel more comfortable?

NIR: I love the audiogalaxy design very much. Features like the artist-orientated clubs or the possibilty to write comments on tracks. That s extremely community-orientated. KaZaa is some technological wonder, but the community-features are even worse then in Napster.

(...)

DEBUG: And what do musicians and record companies say about soulseek?

NIR: Most of them either don t know about soulseek or they don t care. Up to today none of them took a position. Once we got a polite letter from Warp with the request to filter out some special tracks, but that was all.

DEBUG: What did you answer them?

NIR: I explained to them, it wouldn t be technivally possible, cause the server doesn t care about search requests. And that we re a very small and very specialized filesharing community. That our case would be more to inform us mutual about new music, then to steal music, we otherwise would buy. These days i had this suspicion that this might not be true. So i asked the people within our messageboard in a poll. It seems that pretty everyone of us is buying at least as much music as before soulseek. A small minority is buying less. That confirmed me that we help the genre. I hope that labels for electronic music and their musicians can acknowledge that.

(...)

De:Bug: Can you tell us something about the architecture of Soulseek?

Nir: Sure, but I can t promise, that it will be the same when this interview will be published. While working for Napster, I have learned a lot about the pros and cons of systems with centralized servers. When decentralized networks got suitable for everyday life, I looked at them in order to make Soulseek scalable. Soulseek is now a hybrid of centralized and decentralized networking. That means that it can be shut down as easily as Napster. But a Soulseek server is scaling much better than a Napster server. Besides, we have features that are only possible in a centralized system, e.g. the chat rooms and the system of recommendations.


De:bug: How can someone picture the division of work between central server and decentralized network?

Nir: Soulseek works with two different, nearly completely disjoint networks. The centralized one, in which every user is connected to the server, and the decentralized one, in which the server operates as a top node, but almost every user is connected to another. This decentralized network inherits the inquiries und looks more like KazaA than Gnutella.

(...)

De:Bug: What are you going to do about the future of Soulseek?

Nir: Absolutely nothing. I m enjoying it as a platform for learning and experimenting. Maybe I ll get sued, or maybe I won t feel like it someday.

De:Bug: What would happen, if someone is going to sue Soulseek?

Nir: I d give up and release the source code.

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