Date: Sun Jul 30 2000 - 04:35:23 PDT
From: Declan McCullagh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Get Your Music Mojo Working
by Declan McCullagh (email@example.com)
5:45 p.m. Jul. 29, 2000 PDT
LAS VEGAS -- A new file-sharing system could best rivals
like Napster and Gnutella through more anonymous and
The service has an innovative feature that rewards users
for uploading and distributing files: payment in a form of
digital currency called "Mojo."
"It's a cross between Napster and eBay," says Jim McCoy,
the 30-year-old CEO of Autonomous Zone Industries,
which created the open-source MojoNation software.
McCoy's goal is nothing if not ambitious: to create the first
file-sharing economy of agents, servers, and search
engines in which senders and receivers can agree on
prices for each transaction and use micropayments to get
The prospect of millions of users spending Mojo tokens on
pirated movies and songs is sure to draw the wrath of the
entertainment industry, which has sued to shut down
Napster and erase a DVD-descrambling program from the
Another probable early use is pornography copied from
other sites, and companies such as Penthouse's publisher
also have shown they're willing to take legal action.
Autonomous Zone says that since it -- unlike Napster --
does not keep a master index of files, its employees are
simply unable to remove references to illegal files stored
on MojoNation servers. "We are a bigger threat because
we can survive most attacks," McCoy says.
But the startup claims it wants to work with Hollywood
through a voluntary-payment-for-downloads feature that
the firm's programmers have dubbed "PayLars," a reference
to Metallica drummer and Napster foe Lars Ulrich.
"When the president of Sony comes to us, we'll say
Gnutella's never going to do anything for you," says the
Autonomous Zone programmer who goes by the name
Zooko Journeyman. "Fight them or die -- or join us and
In an attempt to spread MojoNation quickly through the
hacker underground, Autonomous Zone plans to release
the beta version at the DefCon convention this weekend in
Las Vegas. Versions will be available on sourceforge.net
for Windows and Linux machines.
MojoNation's current stage of development is somewhere
between a working prototype and a polished final product.
It works, but a friendly interface is still being shaped, and
as of Friday, company programmers were still unearthing
some remaining bugs.
At least when its development is complete, MojoNation
should combine the ease of use and search capabilities of
Napster and Gnutella with the kind of distributed server
network that FreeNet uses. Files that are uploaded to a
Freenet server remain online after a user disconnects, but
Freenet does not support searching or micropayments.
But will MojoNation be compelling enough to make other
users switch? "It doesn't seem to buy anything over
Gnutella," says Jon Lasser, author of Think Unix. "It's not
clear to me who is served by this system."
The libertarian-leaning cypherpunks -- only about seven
so far -- who work at Autonomous Zone are pinning their
hopes on creating an emergent network of electronic
buyers, sellers, and service providers, all exchanging
tokens that might represent as little as one-thousandth of
Another addition: A limited form of reputation-tracking, so
you can determine which service providers are the most
reliable. The first time you log on, you generate a public
and private key pair that the system uses to identify you.
"It is an ant colony of sorts -- tons of agents, each with
its own specialized goal," says McCoy, a former Yahoo
engineer who founded Autonomous Zone last summer and
is providing the seed capital.
By pinning even an infinestimal value on all transactions,
the company plans to discourage piggish folks who
download more than they contribute in return.
To earn Mojo tokens, users can sell their extra bandwidth
or disk space and act as servers, or create their own
service that others want to pay for. A successful system
would also likely include money exchangers who buy and
sell Mojo tokens in exchange for dollars.
Before a MojoNation user uploads a file, the client
software splits it into eight pieces using an algorithm akin
to that used in RAID hard disk arrays: Only four pieces are
necessary to reconstruct the entire file, and the sender
can try to use the network to cloak his or her identity.
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