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P2P in Japan: Winny (RIP)

Winny is troubled

Anyone familiar with the file sharing networks peculiar to Japan will know Winny has long formed the mainstay, especially with successor Share having had development abandoned. However, Winny has fallen on hard times lately, and it may not be overstating the case to say that it is finally about to fade into irrelevance.

Winny has at any rate in recent times become almost unusable due to the demise of the various databases of file hashes on the network, as well as the influence of (presumably organised) deliberate and extensive efforts to pollute the network with fake files and viruses. Without the ability to discriminate between malicious and legitimate clients, and good and bad files, whether a file is genuine soon becomes a matter of pot luck.

Another issue is that the security offered by the network (a characteristic of the Japanese networks is that they employ encryption very heavily, ensuring anonymity) is widely believed to have been more or less completely compromised (to say nothing of how buggy the application is), and it is certainly not possible to bypass ISP filtering without improving the software – not possible without access to the source code. The arrest of the author may be a special case, but there are other cases.

An open secret of the much trumpeted 100mb (and even 1gb) connections in Japan is that no inexpensive mass market ISPs will allow any large scale usage which will threaten their current contention ratios (in other words: P2P), although it is hard to see how they expect to sell such fast connections merely for standard browsing and email usage.

Exceptions in restricting Winny traffic have generally been either local or more expensive or business oriented providers; however since the recent decision by the ISPA has seemingly come into effect, ISPs as a group have closed ranks, perhaps to stifle traffic, perhaps to stifle the complaints of the copyright lobby. With a sufficiently large portion of its users forced off the network, it seems reasonable to think the advantage of the network effect (the wealth of data available due to wide use) will dissipate and so the network will wind down.

One of the ironies of Winny’s demise is perhaps that for a network originally so hostile to non-Japanese access, now perhaps the only users likely to have easy unfiltered (if slow) access are those overseas: few ISPs outside Japan are likely to devote much attention to restricting access to a chiefly Japanese network, and the inferior connection speeds tend to make P2P traffic slightly less of an issue than when readily available 100mb connections threaten to overload ISP backbones.

Whither the P2P user in Japan? Well, most have probably by now been using other means in conjunction with Winny for some time now, since Winny’s only advantage has long been sheer selection of files available. A shift to the other networks is long overdue; if anything clearing aside such an obsolete network could improve the experience on the other networks. Whilst Share may also be destined to suffer a similar ultimate fate to Winny, much hope is offered by the new successor – Perfect Dark. More on this in a later article.


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