The Future of Morpheus Music City

Dennis Faas's picture

Millions of Internet users got a big shock this week when a popular, free MP3-sharing client, Morpheus Music City, went offline.

Before Morpheus became all the rage, Napster was known to the world as the premier music swapping program. What set Napster ahead of its competition was its ease of use, and most importantly -- its reliability and transfer speeds. Napster allowed millions of Internet users to locate and share music files through Napster's central computers (also known as "servers"). The Napster servers kept track of who signed in and out of Napster, who had what MP3, and therefore provided the pathway to any MP3 desired at lightening speed. In computer lingo, this is referred to as a Centralized Network Topology.

Ultimately, Napster was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) because of its methods used to locate and distribute copyrighted music through its centralized network. Since Napster was a single entity -- a "business responsible for distributing copyrighted music" -- rather than millions of users, the RIAA was able to follow through with its lawsuit and shut down the free MP3-sharing service that Napster once offered. Now, Napster is working with the RIAA and provides a monthly fee-based service to share its music.

Soon after the demise of Napster, Morpheus stepped into the picture. Morpheus was deemed safe from RIAA lawsuits because it uses Peer to Peer (P2P) technology to perform its MP3 searches. Peer to peer does not require a central computer to perform its searches; rather, special messages (called queries) are bounced from computer to computer -- in a massive network -- to find a desired MP3. When the query completes, the results are sent back to the originator. This is referred to as a Decentralized Network. Because millions of users represent "the whole" in a decentralized network, the RIAA could not file a lawsuit against Morpheus. Morpheus simply provided the means of communicating between all the computers on the network.

The Morpheus software suite uses a patented searching technology which is made by a third party software company. On Tuesday, February 26, 2002, a major change was made to the searching technology software. The changes would only work on a centralized network and would not work at all on a decentralized platform; this rendered Morpheus completely unusable and millions of Internet users were once again without a favorite MP3-sharing program.

So what will happen to Morpheus?

Since the software technology Morpheus uses is now incompatible with the decentralized network, Morpheus may now be forced to move to the Gnutella network -- another decentralized network, which is currently used by a popular file sharing program called Bearshare. The flipside of the coin is that while Gnutella is a viable option for Morpheus, Gnutella suffers from scalability issues as it grows.

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