Gnutella Network Scaling

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sun Apr 8 08:22:13 MDT 2001


    Yes, there is a big issue with the scalability of the Gnutella network.
The problem is this: as the network grows, the volume of search
requests/results and other network housekeeping traffic grows to the point
where it consumes all the available bandwidth, especially of the dialup
connections, making the actual file-sharing transfers impossibly slow.

    This "barrier"  was hit last August, shortly after the first court order
to shut down Napster.

    People should understand that Gnutella was developed by Justin Frankel
and other folks at Nullsoft, the company that puts out Winamp. Nullsoft now
belongs to AOL Time Warner, and as soon as Nullsoft released the very first
beta, which had a number of bugs and was only a very rough first
implementation, AOL brass ordered them to pull it at the insistence of the
brain-dead executives of Time-Warner.

    Gnutella was, of course, way to cool to abandon and soon, others took up
where Frankel and his friends were forced to abandon the project. The first
step was to document the protocol and then develop more stable, bug free
clients. That's where things were at when the network hit a brick wall last
August or so.

    Whether the creeping paralysis of the network was entirely a result of
simple growth is open to question. The increased network traffic in August
coincided with the appearance of bots on the gnutella network of unknown
origin, whose constant pinging and search requests brought all the dial-up
nodes to their knees. It now seems pretty clear that the obvious suspect is
the RIAA cabal, and that while initially this may have been "innocent"
spying, it probably soon became conscious sabotage.

Suggestive of this was a stody done of gnutella nodes that showed a lot of
them were not sharing any files. Some of the newer programs now make such
freeloading more difficult by not allowing connections unless the user
enables file sharing.

Since the new year, however, things have begun to look up. Two or three
different clients have implemented protocol and default setting changes that
make the network more robust. Approaches being tested include limiting the
bandwidth devoted to network searches and housekeeping, adpating the default
settings for a particular installation to the kind of interenet connection
you have, and breaking with the strict peer-to-peer model by creating super
peers --those users with broadband access-- who then serve as hubs for a
number of dial up clients. Basically, how near or far the "horizon" of the
segment of the Gnutella network you can access from a particular computer is
beoming more dependent on your bandwidth. New features have also been
implemented allowing you to directly access the shared files list.

Whatever the technical details, the responsiveness of the network and
transfer speeds have improved, especially in the last few weeks, and clip2
has reported a significant expansion in the size of the network to some
20,000 nodes at any one time.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Les Schaffer" <schaffer at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Saturday, April 07, 2001 9:52 PM
Subject: Music Monpoly Gall:

Jose Perez said:

> BTW, the gnutella network has overcome many of its early problems,
> and is expanding very rapidly.

there was a piece on slashdot about a week or so ago that was
discussing the technical aspects of gnutella file sharing, and the
claim was made that it will not _scale__ appropriately as more people
use it.

i didnt read the technical details too carefully, but it seemed like
there was a real issue there.

yikes, it wasnt two weeks ago, it was almost 2 months ago!:

les schaffer

More information about the Marxism mailing list