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Definition: Gnutella

An earlier and popular peer-to-peer file sharing network on the Internet. Pronounced "nu-tel-uh," Gnutella let users share files without the use of a central directory like the original Napster architecture. The Gnutella name is a combination of GNU from the software license it was issued under and the chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella.

Gnutella History
Nullsoft, makers of the popular Winamp software media player, was acquired by AOL in 1999. In 2000, the Nullsoft division released Gnutella on the Internet, but AOL quickly pulled the plug. However, licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), Gnutella spread rapidly, and Gnutella clients such as LimeWire, Morpheus, BearShare and Mutella emerged.

In 2010, LimeWire and its successor LimeWire Pirate Edition (LPE) were shut down by court order. LPE was resurrected as WireShare.

How Gnutella Works
Each client in a Gnutella network is also a server, and the term "servent" is the combination of server and client. When starting for the first time, each Gnutella servent requires the IP address of at least one other servent, which it can obtain from a default list of UDP host caches (UHCs) or GWebcaches. UHCs crawl the Internet looking for Gnutella hosts (servents), and GWebcache servers are updated by the Gnutella hosts themselves.

Once a servent contacts another servent, that servent tries to contact the nodes it is aware of, and the request gets forwarded throughout the Gnutella network until the request times out. High-speed, non-firewalled servents can become "ultrapeers," which can connect to 32 other ultrapeers and 30 regular servents. The ultrapeers maintain key words of the files in the servents and forward them only requests for files they are likely to have. See peer-to-peer network.