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Gnutella (pronounced /nʌˈtɛlə/ with a silent g, but often /ɡnʌˈtɛlə/) is a large peer-to-peer network which, at the time of its creation, was the first decentralized peer-to-peer network of its kind, leading to other, later networks adopting the model.[1] It celebrated a decade of existence on March 14, 2010 and has a user base in the millions for peer-to-peer file sharing. In late 2007, it was the most popular file sharing network on the Internet with an estimated market share of more than 40%.[2] In June 2005, gnutella's population was 1.81 million computers[3] increasing to over three million nodes by January 2006.[4]



The first client was developed by Justin Frankel and Tom Pepper of Nullsoft in early 2000, soon after the company's acquisition by AOL. On March 14, the program was made available for download on Nullsoft's servers. The event was prematurely announced on Slashdot, and thousands downloaded the program that day.[5][6] The source code was to be released later, under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

The next day, AOL stopped the availability of the program over legal concerns and restrained Nullsoft from doing any further work on the project. This did not stop gnutella; after a few days, the protocol had been reverse engineered, and compatible free and open source clones began to appear. This parallel development of different clients by different groups remains the modus operandi of gnutella development today.

The gnutella network is a fully distributed alternative to such semi-centralized systems as FastTrack (KaZaA) and the original Napster. Initial popularity of the network was spurred on by Napster's threatened legal demise in early 2001. This growing surge in popularity revealed the limits of the initial protocol's scalability. In early 2001, variations on the protocol (first implemented in proprietary and closed source clients) allowed an improvement in scalability. Instead of treating every user as client and server, some users were now treated as "ultrapeers", routing search requests and responses for users connected to them.

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