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The Benefits of Mass Extinction September 27, 2005 1:27 PM

While mass extinction is something we as humans rather not think about, it is without a doubt extremely beneficial to overall health and longevity of the Earth. Most mass extinctions that have taken place on Earth have been the result of a foreign object from space or the result of a massive geological or tectonically driven event.
When dominant species tend to stick around too long, complacency sets in. Species become weaker and their ability to adapt lessens. Stronger species that could in theory become dominant are unable to compete due to the already established ecosystem. That is of course unless they have a chance.

Massive extinctions in Earth’s history have provided these chances. The Permian Mass Extinction, which occurred somewhere between 250-290 million years ago wiped out between 90%-95% of all marine species and 70% of all land species. Seems terrible? Alas, it benefited two distinct groups; proto-mammals and proto-dinosaurs. This event allowed the dinosaurs to eventually become the dominant species and allow for the continued evolution of mammals.

While the Permian Mass Extinction is believed to have been the result of a climatological or volcanic event, 65 million years ago once again the Earth’s slate would be wiped clean. As most know by now, a space object several miles in diameter would strike the Yucatan Peninsula, wiping out 50% - 70% of all land and sea species. Yet those who survived, such as the mammals and avian dinosaurs, would repopulate the Earth and give rise to the modern world we know today.

How does these events tie into today’s file-sharing world? The file-sharing world is witnessing its own mass extinction and the music and movie industries are the 4-mile diameter asteroid hurling towards earth at a good 20-30 thousand miles per second clip.

Who are rapidly becoming endangered and/or extinct? Kazaaicus Shamanous, LimeWirous Gnutex, WinMX Rex, Grokstidea, BearSharus Erectus, and DirectusConnetivous Berkleycanus. And that’s only the recent mass extinction list.

WinMX and DirectConnect disappeared suddenly and without any real warning. Although some have argued their lack of updates signaled the end loud and clear.

Kazaa and Grokster, both part of the FastTrack genre, both had significant legal defeats. Kazaa (Sharman Networks) was ordered by an Australian federal court to block and/or filter copyrighted material. In addition, Sharman was ordered to pay up to 90% of the music industry’s damages. Grokster faired little better, as the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the music and movie industries can sue this P2P developer for infringement (although it did not make any such judgment for other developers.)

BearShare, for all intents and purposes, has closed. All that remains is the client, as the user forums and apparently the entire BearShare staff has disappeared. And most recently, it has been discovered that LimeWire will attempt to adapt by filtering unlicensed content from its client. However, such adjustments have never faired well to the overall survival of an application.

While most mainstream and popular applications are becoming increasing extinct, there remains an entire ecosystem waiting to become repopulated. As this article is written, over 9.5 million individuals are connected to various P2P networks at any given time. This number has almost tripled since mid-2003. Soon, when Kazaa and LimeWire, by far one of the most popular mainstream P2P applications, begin filtering content, the file-sharing population will once shift their loyalties to a network that is more compatible with freedom.

This time however, the P2P landscape will be radically different. It will be devoid of many commercial applications that currently exist – or at least used to. Open source and community development is slowly but surely beginning to become the standard of file-sharing development. In fact, two of the most popular networks – eDonkey2000 and BitTorrent – are controlled by open source development.

Initially the P2P landscape may appear void of a tremendous amount of applications and networks. However with mass extinction comes opportunity for new and innovative growth. Already, a contingency plan is already established for LimeWire’s eventual demise. A group of independent developers have already begun work on “FrostWire”, which will continue progress on this client when and if LimeWire incorporates DRM (Digital Rights Management.)

Some P2P fans may find themselves frustrated at the music and movie industries for their attack on P2P developers and for stifling innovation. Yet those familiar with the open source development realize the power vacuum left behind will soon become filled.

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