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  technology > net > peer-to-peer infrastructure
march, 2000 |
gnutella distributed information technology

Gnutella is the protocol that allows those with a Gnutella client to distribute all types of files.

Justin Frankel and Tom Pepper at Nullsoft -who conceived both the Winamp MP3 player and Shoutcast- released this open-source fully-distributed information-sharing technology, without America Online's permission (owner of Nullsoft from last summer). The media got a peek and then the back page of the Nullsoft Web site was gone. Already, Gnutella and its documentation have reappeared on a landscaping Web site.

The name Gnutella come from GNU -Gnutella is an open source project with clients registered under the GNU License-; the other part, "Nutella", refers to a chocolate and hazelnut spread.

Gnutella is a peer-to-per network. Each person on the network is considered a hub. In other terms, everybody on the network is a client and a server. Gnutella client software (Gnutella has many clones) is basically a mini search engine and file serving system in one, because it supports bidirectional information transfer. There are no servers; no single computer is responsible for keeping the whole network up. This is a distributed system that does not rely on central servers that can be shut down on a whim. If you want to be part of the network, download the Gnutella application, and fire away.

Gnutella is a fairly simple protocol. It defines only how a string is passed from one site to another, not how each site interprets the string. The GnutellaNet is used only for exchanging servant messages and performing searches. The file transfer is done directly between servants via HTTP. This flexibility allows each site to contribute to a distributed search in the most sophisticated way it can.

"It is what puts the power of information-sharing back into your hands. When the World Wide Web started, that's how it was. It used to be that I would put up a web page, you would link to it, and I would link to yours. To get around, we would all "surf the links". The web was a web. But shortly after, the likes of Yahoo! and Lycos came on the scene to build search engines, or information portals. You go to one place to find all the information. Ideally that would be true. The problem with portals? They stuff you with ads. They are outdated. They basically control the flow of information. (Proven in a recent IBM/Altavista study of the Internet.) Now, however, Gnutella puts the personal interaction back into the Internet."
Gnutella FAQ

:: related context
regarding gnutella - gnu project. february 16, 2002.
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