Lime Wire LLC announced a new version of the popular LimeWire file-sharing software last week, advancing the company's vision of its software as a platform for services. Clearly, the major record companies' lawsuit hasn't stopped the company from trying to develop its business - or pushing p2p to higher levels of functionality.
One of the main upgrades in the new version - due later this year - is the addition of social-networking features. Users will be able to create their own private file-sharing networks with friends and/or family members, with greater control over what gets shared with whom.
According to p2p monitoring companies, most of what's being shared today on LimeWire is pirated songs, movies, TV shows and software. Enabling people to create private sharing groups might encourage more of them to use the software for legitimate sharing of the media they create, but it might also be seen as a way to promote anxiety-free bootlegging by those concerned about Recording Industry Association of America lawsuits and malware.
Copyright law and the Supreme Court's Grokster ruling provide limited room for file-sharing companies to maneuver - if they knowingly promote or abet piracy by their users, or profit from infringement they could have stopped, they can be held liable for it.
On the other hand, LimeWire's enormous audience is enough to prod some content owners to look past the infringements and focus on the opportunities. The company claims the software is downloaded 350,000 times daily, with more than 70 million users per month and 5 million at any given moment.
Still, Lime may be racing the clock here. Online traffic counters say downloading is giving way to streaming as the consumption model of choice. Hulu is just one of a growing roster of sophisticated, free outlets for video on demand that are building large audiences among college students and other young users who used to rely on p2p for their TV shows.