What happened to Kazaa, the P2P downloader that triumphed at the turn of the century thanks to the creators of Skype


Between 2002 and 2004 KaZaa Media Desktop (just ‘KaZaa’ for friends) became ‘the sensation’ in the internet world, and essential software on many personal computers. Its functionality? Exchange files, especially music and videos, but everything circulated there. After this brief moment of glory, it was forgotten in favor of other alternatives, and its trace was lost for many users. But, What happened to KaZaa?

And above all, why are you crying with nostalgia reading this? In fact, the past may hold the memory of this little program in pink. Let’s give the floor to the always ironic Uncyclopedia:

“Disguised as a pioneering and effective online music service, KaZaa has spread like wildfire across the Internet, and with comparable destructive effects. The hallmark of the software was the constant barrage of advertisements.

But we’ll come to that, let’s go to the background first.

The Napster King is dead, long live the king

1999: at the gates of the third millennium, when households were already beginning to change their 56K modems for ISDN and ADSL connections, the first version of Napster was releasedthe beginning of a revolution in music consumption and distribution habits and the beginning of an era of hyperactivity among copyright lawyers (which is not yet over).

A hyperactivity that quickly got ahead of this pioneering application… while its void was filled by a whole new generation of file downloaders.

In fact, a few months before Napster bit the dust in front of the record labels, it was already out the first version of what was called its great successor: KaZaa (or, to be more precise, KaZaa Media Desktop). Its creators were the Swede Niklas Zennström and the Dane Janus Friis, whose names may be familiar to you because, a few years later they would launch another even more popular softwarea certain Skype (whose communication protocol was partly based on what was achieved with FastTrack).

But back to KaZaa, Zennström and Friis learned from Napster’s mistakes and they figured out ways to make it harder for music industry lawyers to bring them down just as easilyso they created on the one hand the P2P Internet protocol on which the KaZaa exchanges were based (called FastTrack) and on the other hand the program which allowed its use (KaZaa itself)… and put each technology in the hands from a different company.

SharmanInteractive, the company that owns the software, was headquartered in a Pacific tax haven and the servers were located in Denmark. Another tax haven, in this case a small British-owned island, was home to blastoise (FastTrack operator) and a third party company, LEF Interactiveregistered KaZaa.com in Australia.

With all of you, KaZaa Media Desktop.

To complicate matters further, Blastoise has licensed the use of KaZaa to third parties, such as the owners of the software. Morpheus, an alternative that became popular before KaZaa itself (thanks to the fact that it did not artificially limit the download speed)…until a non-payment of license fees meant that, overnight (more precisely, February 26, 2002), Blastoise will disconnect Morpheus from FastTrack without warning.forcing this software to take refuge in the Gnutella network (less reprehensible, but also with less content and less efficient).

Of course, none of this prevented copyright infringement lawsuits from falling on them. But unlike what happened with Napster, Record labels weren’t the only reason for KaZaa’s downfall.

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Why did we use KaZaa? And why do we stop doing it?

our protagonist stood out from contemporary rivals such as eDonkey and Soulseek for its ease of use for the average user. KaZaa’s sequence was simple: open the program > go to the search engine > enter the search term > choose the preferred result and click “download”. no mess

Although the record industry has come to an end launch sabotage campaigns based on filling the network with damaged or incomplete files, seeking user frustration. It ended up being easy to find results…but not that those results ended up being useful.

But, in addition, all the hassle that KaZaa saved us when using it, it compensated for by generating them during its installation. And not because the installation was difficult, but because once it started gaining notoriety, those in charge they had no better idea than to monetize it by filling the spyware and adware installation package which, among other things, modified the browser’s homepage and 404 error page, inserted a toolbar (advertisement) there, and captured users’ browsing data.

This caused a reaction of deep anger in the user community, and they were soon exposed. unofficial versions whose main claim was to maintain the functionality of KaZaa by removing all attached malware. Although we don’t have usage data, what I remember from that time is that KaZaa Lite (the main of these alternatives) ended up being as popular or more popular than the official client.

The reaction of KaZaa officials was deeply hypocritical: sued the creators of KaZaa Lite for “copyright infringement”. You understand the irony, don’t you? Its creator, of course, responded to it as P2P proponents responded to record labels and film distributors in those days: that its existence not only did this not harm KaZaa, but it increased its market thanks to users who otherwise would have simply given up on the “official” option.

Deceased KaZaa Lite, its place would eventually be taken by Diet KaZaa, KaZaa Lite Tools or K-Lite: all required installing the original software, to avoid incurring the same legal error as KaZaa Lite. But users were getting tired of so many changes and problems. KaZaa was no longer a “hassle-free” option to find files.

What Remains of Napster Culture in Today's Internet and Society

an ignominious death

Finally, the competition of a new effective P2P software (Ares) and the burial of the lawsuits, made that KaZaa owners eventually gave up in 2006 and agreed to pay 79 million euros in compensation and “legalize” his declining business. At the same time, they were also sued by Morpheus officials, using a law designed against mafia tactics, for what happened four years earlier.


Morpheus, the betrayed brother.

So, the ‘KaZaa’ brand has entered the typical cycle of all failing brands, which are successively resold at lower and lower prices to companies that try to make them profitable by devoting them to new tasks. Thus, five years later, in 2011, we heard about a mobile app from KaZaa which sought to evolve the P2P of music streaming to compete with a rising star, a certain Spotify. Before that, KaZaa’s own parents, Zennström and Friis, tried to do the same with Rdio.

Long live the Spotify king. But that’s a story for another time.


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