Skip to content

File Sharing - History

By Codrut Nistor

Posted in Pctips3000-series, Torrents-and-p2p

I hope you remember the day when we talked about file sharing and I promised you some more articles on that topic. To be honest I can't remember if it was sunny or not back then but now there's plenty of sunshine and then some! Anyway I wasn't exactly thinking about the weather but more about the things we talked about and the ones that remained in the waiting list. Today I think the time has come for some file sharing history don't you think?

File Sharing History

Contrary to what people may think there's a lot to talk about file sharing history especially since it all started before the P2P technology came crashing in. Of course P2P can be held responsible for making it all so popular but file sharing started back in the early 1990s and - if we consider "disk sharing" to be an earlier method it all goes all the way back to 1971...

... when the 8-inch floppy disk was developed by IBM. Sharing files was pretty easy - you copy the original data files then borrow the disk. Obviously there were only a few computers around back then but this happened again almost two decades later when optical and flash media became nothing out of ordinary.

A few years later in 1978 CBBS becomes the first Bulletin board system but BBS access is limited to phone lines until early 1990s. Anyway almost two decades ago BBS was probably the most widely used file sharing method... apart from passing original discs/copies to your friends of course!

In 1979 Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis came up with Usenet. Three decades ago Usenet continues to serve files through alt.binaries.* newsgroups! I guess I don't have to say that most of those are illegal copies... and this is a topic we'll get to some other time anyway since there's quite a lot to say about illegal/legal file sharing.

Six years later the FTP protocol becomes standardized and in 1988 IRC is born (it may be strange but I know quite a few people who were crazy about exchanging media content via IRC about a decade ago).

The real thing starts with the formal proposal of the World Wide Web in 1990 followed by the introduction of the MP3 standard at the end of 1991.

In the following years it all starts to take off as Winamp hits the road in 1997 followed by the first MP3 player (the MPMan F10) and in late 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is passed by the US Senate as the weapon of piracy destruction used in most legal actions against various file sharing services.

In 1998 and 1999 two big falling stars of the file sharing constellation were born - Audiogalaxy and Napster. The first one fell in 2002 and the second in 2001.

In early 2000 Gnutella becomes the first decentralized file sharing network and the eDonkey2000 client gets released in September.

One year later Napster is shut down and a new star is born - BitTorrent who arrived later that year together with some other goodies.

In 2002 eMule arrives quickly becoming the most popular client for the eDonkey2000 network. A lot of other interesting things happen in 2002 but 2003 is the year when isoHunt and The Pirate Bay are being released making the world a much better place for piracy... ehem file sharing. No need to link to them at this time don't you think? :)

In 2004 the fight against illegal file sharing takes off seriously with 750 lawsuits filed by the RIAA and ShareReactor being shut down by the Swiss Police. Ouch!

Next year some lawsuits end pretty bad for those in the file sharing camp but the worst part of it all is that eDonkey2000 and Overnet are both being discontinued after receiving a cease and desist letter from the RIAA.

In 2006 Razorback2 is raided and put out of commission by the police. This was one of the most important eDonkey servers and despite the fact this action didn't stop eMule users from downloading stuff it was surely a serious blow. Even more the Swedish Police raided The Pirate Bay about three months later.

In 2007 and 2008 a cat and mouse chase follows with various file sharing resources being taken out and then brought back to life.

In early 2009 The Pirate Bay trial gets a lot of media coverage and now we're waiting for the appeal since the initial verdict was - obviously - a "guilty" one. Other than that...

... the clock is ticking and the history is written as we speak. Next stop will be in the "legal or not" area one of these days. That's all for now folks... so stay tuned!