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In 1999 many people where using a new style of program, one so different and radical it took off in a big way and changed the usage habits of virtually all internet users for at least the next ten years, I refer of course to Napster.When Napster was forced to close following an ill fated legal battle with the recording industry many folks felt they had been allowed to glimpse the promised land in the shape of free music downloading and then suddenly a heavy veil had been closed back over it, preventing those same folks from further enjoying their new found source of aural gold, as is human nature this quickly focused efforts to emulate the missing service and create others in its place that complied with the law as it stood. This then was the birth of the P2P explosion and we will focus here on one of those new applications and its history to the present day, buckle your seatbelts folks, its a bumpy ride !!We fast forward to 2000 for our story, deep in Canada a software developer previously known only for database applications and small ancillary cryptographic programs had decided to create his own network client for the relatively new Open-Nap network ,once he had a basic client design put together he went on to create a company called "Frontcode Technologies" to become the public vehicle for his work, interestingly its also at this time he chose a pseudonym for himself, one shared by a popular musician also from Canada.Open-Nap was a network with more than a passing resemblance to the famed Napster network,its name is believed to be derived from "open specification napster" (henceforth called Open-nap for short) however it had one or two prominent network architectural features that meant it did not rely on a single central server for the network to operate, instead it relied on many users acting as server operators and each server operator was able in effect to control what was up or downloaded and thus we saw the emergence of themed servers for specific musical tastes, this of course was a welcome enhancement for those searching for rare or otherwise obscure music.WinMX started life as most programs do as a privately released "alpha" followed by a series of improving public "betas" beginning with the first public release of version 1.80 around the first few days of December 2000, this was a 1.5 MB sized offering, unfortunately an overlooked bug was quickly discovered and the release was hastily withdrawn, not a great start it seemed, but all was not lost...On the 8th of December 2000 a hastily updated version (1.81) was released to the public, this too was a beta release and was good enough to gain much popular interest, at this time we have to remember WinMX was competing directly with other seasoned Open-nap clients and there was little patience for new ideas or features that the other clients did not have or broke with the new protocol specification in any way, especially from a newcomer. The 1.81 Version featured multiple filetype handling, not just mp3 (a common complaint with the original Napster) and many options to assist in setting up a network efficiently although the traditional look of the client that followed later on was not to be found yet, instead users had a floating toolbar of icons and those in turn opened multiple floating windows that could be parked anywhere across the desktop. Some hints of the beginnings of the later popular display format can be seen in the library and setup wizard. A full 3 months passed before users got their hands on the next release of WinMX, 2.00 had hit the streets on the 8th of march. Much publicity had been drummed up in the meantime by users of the original client release who had in many cases sent in ideas, feature requests and network improving concepts to the developer for possible inclusion in the client, although at this stage it was not immediately clear that any changes had taken place aside from some bug fixes and a quantity of small changes designed to make the client more stable and efficient.
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