Napster and Gnutella are refuges for music fans who'd much rather take than give, according to a survey of Gnutella usage by the famous Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Parc).
Parc researchers studied activity on the open source peer-to-peer file sharing tool Gnutella over a 24-hour period. They found that 70 per cent of users don't share any of their own files.
They also found that just one per cent of the users served almost half of the available tracks, and 25 per cent of users served 98 per cent of the requests for music files.
That should come as music to the ears of the recording industry, which is keen to block such services on the grounds they encourage piracy. Parc's research certainly suggest the service isn't the basis for a community of sharers that Napster and its proponents have suggested.
Of course, that doesn't invalidate Napster's argument that its service doesn't promote piracy, but it does suggests users are more interested in taking tracks than donating them. Anecdotal evidence suggests that sharers are more likely to buy music than takers (dubbed 'free riders' by the survey's authors) - and that backs the Recording Industry Association of America's argument against Napster.
The research also suggests that if so few are serving to so many, it becomes very hard to say that Napster or Gnutella are true peer-to-peer services.
Parc's motivation behind the survey, however, was more pragmatic: to measure the impact of Gnutella usage on the services' performance.
"The computers handling the bulk of queries may become unable to deal with all the traffic that is coming to them, which could potentially cause the system to fall and crash," warned Eytan Adar, who coauthored the study, in a Reuters report. ®
Check out The Register's full coverage of the Napster controversy here