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Limewire: File Sharing Case Study

Group Members

  • Roopkiran Sidhu
  • Kirenjit Saini
  • Liza Rooprai
  • Paramvir Sidhu
  • Stephanie Phillips

Inital Project Statment

The definition of file shating is "the process of direct or indirect data sharing on a computer network with barious levels of acccess privilege; also, the process of direct or indirect file transfer via the Internet "[1]We use file sharing on an everyday basis and through a variety of programs. Some common programs include Limewire, Napster and Soulseek. We will focus our research on limeire by using it as a specific example. We will address the process of file sharing and how it works along with the problems faced with file sharing.

What is File Sharing?

File sharing is the process of providing and receiving digital files on a computer network, usually on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network model. In this model the files are stored on and served by personal computers of the users. People who do use a file sharing network on the Internet upload and download files. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing network is different from other file sharing networks since it does not require uploading.

History of Limewire

Limewire was founded in 2000 by Mark Gorton and it debuted in August of that year. The Limewire team developed a router to connect to the Gnutella Network within weeks of its creation. It was one of the first peer-to-peer programs to run on the Macintosh platform

Open Source

Limewire LLC went open source in October 2001, making the Limewire Source Code available under GPL (General Public Licensing) so that the anyone can download, modify and otherwise use the source code. Limewire also provides the "Bugs and Features Request" for anyone who wants to attempt to modify the program to fix the listed bugs, and to provide the features Limewire users request. They also have the "Wish List" with a similar idea in mind, but it has "Bounties" and provides rewards for people who code the program and make the requested changes. Some of the bounties include cash, while others are internship positions, and even full-time positions within the company.

Other Improvements

Limewire has made, and continues to make many improvements to the program. In 2004 they removed all bundled software, and they were recognized in 2005 by Ben Edelman, spyware expert, as being one of the very few sharing applications to do so. In 2006 Limewire began developing its beta filtering system. Limewire is also continually releasing new versions, each fixing minor bugs and errors as well as improving and developing design and security features.

Searching for Files

How Search Engines Work

Search engine is a major component of lime wire, an effective search engine is vital for a sucess of a peer-to-peer file sharing system. Limewire has a Crawler based search engine. This search engine consists of 3 parts:

  1. Spider or the crawler vists every web page, looks at the information on the page and feeds the information to the second part of the search engine called the index. The spider keeps everything updating by visiting each website frequently.
  2. The index is a huge library of information which is sometimes called the catalog. It contains a copy of the webpages found by the spider. If anything changes the index is updated. Next the indexing software then extract information and stores it in the database .
  3. The database is where everything is stored. When a search is made the user is searching the database not the internet.

Differences From Napster

Napster a similar program to limewire which owned high percentage of share hold of market had quite different search engine then limewire. Napster used a centralized search engine and index, rather than a spider that searches the webpages, it used sharing directories to get the information. Limewire is a true peer to peer system as it does not use a central server. To get the information it checks the local networks called "horizon" --which is a subset of entire network which is about 10000 hosts.

Peer to Peer System

Peer to Peer system is a file sharing system that allows people outside the local network to access the files that are stored on another users computer.

Advantages of P2P searching

  1. The distribution of the information is quick as there is no need of huge central server thus requiring no dependency on a certain server and no need of a huge indexing.
  2. The database in P2P searching is always up to date and as it automatically looks for the changes as something gets added or removed.
  3. The identity of the user is kept private when someone is searching for content, ensuring no identity theft issues arise.

Viruses & Identity Theft

When downloading a file from lime wire you might potentially be downloading a virus. 60% of the files which show up when searching for a game on lime wire contain viruses. Viruses can steal a lot of info such as your passwords, credit card info and social insurance numbers. Some ways of protecting your computer from downloading potentially harmful viruses when using limewire are:

  1. Get a virus protection program which will scan your computer during and after downloads. This can be either free or bought.
  2. Songs are usually about 3 to 7 MB in size , so if there is a music file claiming to be less then 5MB it might be a virus
  3. Games are often larger then viruses so if the game is claiming to be 5MB or less it is most likely a virus
  4. Make sure you don’t share files with Limewire but if you do be cautious about what is in these files. You do not want your personal information being shared on the internet.
  5. Do not download EXE files. Limewire is full of EXE files. These files are computer which are used to install and run programs and routines.EXE files could be used as a delivery system for viruses.

Viruses are also linked to cases of identity theft. Viruses which are responsible for identity theft are often invisible and once on the computer transmit private information to the identity thieves. EXE files can also take personal information or password keystokes and hand them over to an unknown website without the knowledge of the user or the machine might delete its own files and crash.

Privacy and Security Issues

According to Limewire

Limewire has its own privacy and legal policies which protect limewire in its own words. A quote from the Limewire website itself states: "We will not sell, share, or rent this information to others in ways different from what is disclosed in this statement. LimeWire collects information from our users at several different points on our website."

As well, Limwire also discusses the use of cookies. What are cookies you ask? A cookie is a piece of data stored on the user's hard drive containing information about the user. Limewire states: "Their use will in no way be linked to any personally identifiable information while on our site."

Limewire's privacy policy also discusses Sharing in the following way: "We will share aggregated demographic information with our partners and advertisers. This is not linked to any personal information that can identify any individual person."

Limewire's privacy policy also covers the use of third parties, however one must keep in mind that we never quite know the use of these third parties or their agreements with Limewire...or even the service they provide!

"We may partner with another party to provide specific services. When the user signs up for these services, we will share names, or other contact information that is necessary for the third party to provide these services. These parties are not allowed to use personally identifiable information except for the purpose of providing these services."

Now The Reality!

Initially, Napster was the first file sharing program to be used. It was shut down by the RIAA (Recording Industry of America), which is when Limewire came into the spotlight...and still remains in it to this day!

Limewire IS more legal in Canada than in U.S and is more used here because file sharing is legal in Canada. The United States is much more strict about it because of the Millennium Copyright Act.

In early 2005, Limewire had a flaw that supposedly exposed your hard drive to anyone else on the network!

Although this flaw has been fixed, to what extent we do not know.

There are accusations that Limewire can divulge your file sharing habits to third parties, yet no evidence has been found. However the threat to your privacy should be enough to warrant its use! If you don't believe its threats...this video should clear it up. Although from 2005...before these flaws were 'fixed' , this video shows how scary and easy it is for hackers to get into your personal information.

The Effect of File sharing on Music Companies

Effect on sales

When we think of file sharing and downloaded music, we assume that it kills music sales and is terrible for the music industry. Though many believe this, file sharing may actually help the music industry. One study conducted at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina showed that the effect of file sharing on the music industry is comparable to zero. Even though thousands of people download music each and every day, those who are downloading the music would not have bought the music either way. Researchers refer to those downloading as "time-rich" and "money-poor". This means that they do have enough time to download the music but they cannot afford to purchase the music.


Another reason that the music industry may not be affected by the downloading is that many people simply sample the music by downloading it first and if they like what they hear than they will buy the album. These people are referred to as "samplers". This method allows the music industry and particular artists to gain exposure. In many ways file sharing helps the music industry, through exposure.

Rewards of Buying Music

Yet, there are still many rewards to purchasing your music. This is a great way to support your favourite artists. Aside from the support by buying your music, you are given a guarantee that you are getting the original quality music. When downloading music, you never actually know what you are getting and how it will affect your computer. Though file sharing is a cheaper alternative to buying music, and does not have an impact on the music industry, it is still always better to buy your music.

Future of Limewire

Whats next for Limewire? Lime Wire LLC announced on November 7, 2008 that they will be releasing Limewire 5.0. It will incprporate social networking, provide better virus protection, and interface with the new Limewire Store. It will also have a new visual design, and will have more security for users and will allow the user to manage their shared files better.