Gnutella is a distributed software project to create a network protocol for peer file sharing without a central server.

The first customer for this network was developed by Justin Frankel and Tom Pepper of Nullsoft, now a division of AOL, in early 2000. On 14 March the same year, the program was released for download from the Nullsoft site. The source code was released shortly later, under the terms of the GPL. The event was immediately announced on Slashdot, and the program was downloaded en masse that day.

The next day, AOL stopped the availability of the program because of legal issues and restrained Nullsoft division to continue working on the project. This was not the end of Gnutella, a few days later the protocol had been deciphered by reverse engineering and various open source clones began to emerge. This parallel development of different customers for different groups continues today how it is made Gnutella development today.

The Gnutella network is an alternative decentralized, semi-centralized systems as Napster. The initial popularity of the network was further stimulated after the fall of Napster in 2001 for legal reasons. This growth in popularity quickly revealed the limits of the initial protocol scalability.

In early 2001, some changes in protocol (initially released as closed source clients) improved to some extent the scalability of the protocol. Instead of treating each user as a client and server, some users began to be treated as “ultrapeer”, routing search requests and responses for users connected to them.

The name ‘Gnutella’ is a pun on GNU and Nutella (chocolate candy). Supposedly, Frankel and Pepper ate a lot of Nutella as they worked on the original project and would use the GNU GPL for the program ended. Gnutella is not directly associated with the GNU Project.


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