Darknet (file sharing)

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A darknet is a virtual private network where users connect only to people they trust. In its most general meaning, a darknet can be any type of closed, private group of people communicating, but the name is most often used specifically for file sharing networks. "The darknet" can be used to refer collectively to all covert communication networks.


[edit] History

The term was originally coined in the 1970s to designate networks which were isolated from ARPANET (which evolved into the Internet) for security purposes. Some darknets were able to receive data from ARPANET but had addresses which did not appear in the network lists and would not answer pings or other inquiries. The root of the name is believed to be related to the term black box,[citation needed] which meant a system or device whose contents were unknown.

The term gained public acceptance following publication of The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution, a 2002 article by Peter Biddle, Paul England, Marcus Peinado, and Bryan Willman, four employees of Microsoft who described the concept as follows:

The idea of the darknet is based upon three assumptions:

  1. Any widely distributed object will be available to a fraction of users in a form that permits copying.
  2. Users will copy objects if it is possible and interesting to do so.
  3. Users are connected by high-bandwidth channels.
The darknet is the distribution network that emerges from the injection of objects according to assumption 1 and the distribution of those objects according to assumptions 2 and 3.

They argued that the presence of the darknet was the major hindrance to the development of workable DRM technologies. This term has since seen usage in major media sources, including Rolling Stone and Wired, and it is also the title of a book by J.D. Lasica.

[edit] Terms

Darknets that can take information from the larger net are also known as Data Motels, a reference to an advertising slogan for the commercial insect trap Roach Motel, where "roaches check in, but they don't check out."

Lucas Gonze has contrasted "the darknets" with "the lightnet," which is the network in which content is freely shareable and available via standard URIs. In his estimation: "lightnet" is always singular (because everything in it is interoperable and interconnected), "darknets" is always plural (because by definition they are not interoperable or interconnected). (From a comment on The Jason Boog Show: Darknets and the Lightnet.)

When used to describe a file sharing network, the term is often used as a synonym for "friend-to-friend" -- both describing networks where direct connections are only established between trusted friends. However, "darknet" can also be used in a broader sense to describe any private file sharing network. The most widespread file sharing networks, such as Kazaa, are not darknets, since peers will communicate with anybody else on the network. Popular darknet software includes Nullsoft's WASTE and Freenet. The current version of Freenet, unlike typical darknets, is capable of supporting potentially millions of users using an application of small world theory.

Early versions of Apple's iTunes allowed users to specify the IP of a remote subnet and share their music with users in that subnet in a darknet-like fashion. Newer versions disable that functionality, but still allow users to stream music within their own subnet; hacks such as ourTunes allow users on the same iTunes network to download each others' music with no loss of quality.

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[edit] Software

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