J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
M U S I C M E D I A W A T C H
Commentary on the week's music technology news
Issue No. 8
Tuesday, March 5, 2002
++ FEATURE: Morpheus Gets Off of FastTrack, Moves to Gnutella
++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS:
- Sony Moves into P2P Space
- New York Times Reports on Electronic Instruments
- Daiichikosho to Offer Ring Melody Service in Korea
++ FEATURE: Morpheus Gets Off of FastTrack, Moves to Gnutella
Readers of MMW up to now will likely have noticed a heavy emphasis
on ringtone coverage, with somewhat less attention given to P2P
music file-sharing services. This bias reflects the fact that the
ringtone market is an exceptionally strong force here in Japan,
and is beginning to really take off overseas as well. However, the
developments in the P2P world over the last week, while not
directly related to Japan, are so important that I've decided to
devote the main space of this issue to them.
1. Some background:
The P2P file-sharing space can essentially be broken into two main
protocol camps: FastTrack and Gnutella. The FastTrack protocol is
proprietary and (seemingly, anyway) owned by the company of the
same name. Until last week, the client programs Morpheus, Kazaa
and Grokster all shared this protocol, meaning that users of any
one of these programs could swap files with users running any of
the others. The Gnutella protocol, on the other hand, is an open
source protocol developed by AOL programmer Justin Frankel. The
most popular client programs for Gnutella are LimeWire and
Of the two protocols, FastTrack has had by far the most users.
According to CNET Download.com, there have been over 89 million
downloads of Fastrack client programs, with Morpheus comprising
over 57 percent of these. Finally, Morpheus, Kazaa and Grokster
are all being sued by the Recording Industry Association of
America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America
(MPAA). Initial hearings began on March 4.
2. The facts:
Last Tuesday, the tens of millions of Morpheus users suddenly
found themselves locked out of the service, receiving a message
saying they needed to upgrade to a new version of the software.
On Wednesday, Steve Griffin, CEO of Morpheus owner StreamCast
Networks, said that the problem was caused not by Morpheus, but
by computers running a new version of software distributed by
Kazaa earlier this month. Then, on Friday, StreamCast rushed out
a new version of its software Morpheus called the Morpheus
Preview Edition, which is based not on FastTrack but on the open
Gnutella protocol. In other words, Morpheus users can now swap
files with users of LimeWire and BearShare, but not with Kazaa
and Grokster users.
3. The implications:
The events of last week have resulted in two huge changes in the
P2P industry. First, assuming that even a fraction of the
50-million-plus Morpheus users download the new Gnutella version
of the software, it will mark a massive power shift in the market
from the closed FastTrack protocol to Gnutella. Second, the legal
position of the two remaining companies in the FastTrack camp
regarding a shutdown order has been severely weakened. These
companies have heretofore maintained that, unlike Napster, there
is no central control in the FastTrack network and thus no way to
shut down any of the file-sharing services. However, because
Morpheus was indeed effectively shut down last week, lawyers for
the RIAA will have a field day debunking the "decentralization"
claims of Kazaa and Grokster.
4. Some questions (and speculation):
There is an awful lot to wonder about here. First, why were
Morpheus users ever locked out in the first place? Initially,
StreamCast hinted at some kind of "attack" against the company,
but did not go into specifics. On Friday, Griffin said that
StreamCast had had a disagreement over terms and fees with
Kazaa (now owned by Australia-based Sharman Networks), but
that throwing his users off the network was a violation of the
terms of his contract with Kazaa. "It was not our intention
to separate the networks," Griffin said. But "I'm not sure how
you get back into compatibility with someone that seems to be
able to turn you off." As of this writing, Kazaa has yet to
release an official statement on the matter.
This begs another question: Who controls the FastTrack protocol,
FastTrack or Kazaa? If not Kazaa, then why is StreamCast
negotiating terms and fees with them?
Next question: Why did StreamCast switch sides? It is known that
the company had been planning to issue a version of Morpheus
that supported both FastTrack and Gnutella, but the release of
Morpheus Preview Edition was obviously rushed and represented a
definite defection from FastTrack to Gnutella. Could it be that
StreamCast realized early on that FastTrack was indeed
vulnerable to a shutdown order and moved to protect itself?
Assuming that Kazaa actually controls the FastTrack protocol,
it is conceivable that the lockout could have been a retaliatory
response to punish the defection. If so, however, it was not a
very bright one, considering that Kazaa's decentralization claim
is now crushed.
Finally, one has to wonder: Will Gnutella really be able to absorb
a sudden influx of tens of millions of new users? The network has
had trouble in the past in accommodating large numbers of users,
and many analysts believe it will be severely overloaded if the
majority of Morpheus users move into the Gnutella community.
Sorry, no answers yet. We'll continue to watch closely, though, and
I welcome input from any of you who might have additional
information. In the meantime, please stay tuned, and we will keep
you updated on these events as they unfold.
NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Sony Moves into P2P Space
Last Thursday, CenterSpan Communications announced it had reached
an agreement with Sony Music Entertainment to distribute Sony's
music on its peer-to-peer service. The deal will allow CenterSpan
to offer music from Sony artists to other online music providers.
CenterSpan bought the Napster-like Scour.com in 2000 and in April
2001 launched a free trial of a new service called C-Star CDN,
which is based on the peer-to-peer technology of Scour. A
representative from the company said they are talking with other
major labels, movie studios and online music subscription services.
New York Times Reports on Electronic Instruments
There was an interesting piece in the New York Times last week about
electronic music innovators who are developing computer-controlled
instruments that are increasingly spontaneous and life-like. The
article goes on to describe the mutantrumpet, a larger version of a
traditional trumpet, the Samchillian, an ergonomic keyboard which is
linked to a sound-generating sampler, and the shaka, a six-foot
piece of metal with eight piano strings hooked to electronic panels
and large guitar pickups for amplification.
Daiichikosho to Offer Ring Melody Service in Korea
Daiichikosho Co., a distributor of karaoke equipment and software,
announced on Monday that it will launch a new ringtone download
service in South Korea called "Tokyo Sound Express." The service
will provide songs from about 70 Japanese pop stars as well as
popular anime songs. The company says that the sound quality of
the ringtones will be comparable to those offered in Japan. It
should be interesting to see how the service fares in Korea,
given the government restrictions and general resistance to
Japanese pop culture.
SUBSCRIBERS: 336 as of March 5, 2002
Written by Steve Myers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Steve Myers heads the Theta Group at Layer-8 Technologies, which
specializes in the development of music-related software applications.
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