Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Real P2P King: eMule

If you haven't looked at the sourceforge stats lately and you've been getting most of your P2P data from various tech news agencies, the following fact has probably eluded you: the relatively under-hyped eMule is by far the most popular P2P app in the world.

According to sourceforge, eMule is the #1 download of all time, with 212,399,887 downloads. eMule leads Azuerus, the most popular open source BitTorrent client, by almost a factor of 2 -- Azureus has been downloaded "only" 121,612,343 times. The mainline BitTorrent client, which is the #3 download of all time, has a "measly" 51,850,559 downloads. Even when you add up both the BitTorrent and Azureus numbers, you don't come close to the total number of eMule downloads.

(Ares Galaxy's meteoric rise in the sourceforge stats is also worth pointing out. In less than a year since its open source release, Ares has been dowloaded an astounding 35,575,917 million times -- and that's without counting the number of times Ares has been downloaded as a closed source app. That's pretty amazing!)

I should mention that eMule Plus, an eMule knockoff, has been downloaded 15,090,841 million times. I would probably do justice to eMule by counting these numbers as eMule downloads, but even without these extra numbers eMule is the undisputed download champion on sourceforge.

The sourceforge stats aren't a perfect indicator of popularity, especially since they don't include a number of closed source (and hence spyware laden in most cases) P2P apps. In fact, according to, Kazaa has been downlooaded 389,392,921 times, which is much greater than the total number of eMule downloads. In light of this, why do I still believe that eMule is the King? Well, Kazaa may have been the popularity champion at some point, but it clearly isn't now. Kazaa's spyware and malware infestation must have driven away most of its users, who have grown more aware of the risks of installing a spyware laden monstrosity on their machines. The proliferation of corrupt files on the FastTrack network has also contributed to this trend according to this article. The stats on the homepage back this observation, showing a much larger number of users on the EDonkey2000 network (on which eMule rides) than the FastTrack network.

You get a similar picture from this Google Trends graph:

One fascinating trend this graph reveals is that eMule is even bigger than Skype!

It is strange how weak the correlation is between news coverage and popularity. A few quick searches I did yesterday in Google news reveal the following news story counts:

  • Skype: 2,040

  • BitTorrent: 434

  • Kazaa: 806

  • Limewire: 255

  • eMule: 8

(Note: many news stories came out today about Kazaa's settlement with the recording industry.)

So, what's the conclusion? Tech journalists apparently like writing about what other tech journalists are writing about. Also, to get news coverage, an application must have a company or a human face associated with it. Buzz just doesn't flow in the way of a group of anonymous hackers who build a high-quality app that changes the internet on a mind-boggling scale.

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