What happened to Kazaa, the P2P download program that was successful at the beginning of the century thanks to the creators of Skype

Between 2002 and 2004, KaZaa Media Desktop (just ‘KaZaa’ for friends) became ‘the sensation’ in the Internet world.and essential software on many home computers. Its functionality? Exchange files, especially music and video., but everything circulated there. After that brief moment of fame, it fell into oblivion in favor of other alternatives, and many users lost track of it. But, What happened to KaZaa?

And above all, why are you crying with nostalgia while reading this? Actually, it may be that past tense is painting your memory of this little program pink. Let’s give the word to the always ironic Encyclopedia:

“Disguised as a pioneering and efficient online music service, KaZaa spread like wildfire across the Internet and with comparable destructive effects. The hallmark of the software was the constant barrage of advertisements.”

But we’ll get to that, let’s go to the bottom first.

The Napster King is dead, long live the king

1999: at the gates of the third millennium, when households were already beginning to change their 56Ks modems for ISDN and ADSL connections, the first version of Napster was releasedthe beginning of a revolution in the habits of consumption and distribution of music and the beginning of an era of hyperactivity among expert copyright lawyers (which is not over yet).

A hyperactivity that quickly swept away this pioneering application… while its gap was filled a whole new generation of file downloaders.

In fact, a few months before Napster bit the dust in front of record companies, it had already come out the first version of what was going to be its great successor: KaZaa (or, to be more precise, KaZaa Media Desktop). Its creators were the Swedish Niklas Zennström and the Danish Janus Friis, whose names may be familiar to you because, a couple of years later, they would release another even more popular softwarea certain Skype (whose communication protocol was partly based on what was achieved with FastTrack).

But going back to KaZaa, Zennström and Friis learned from Napster’s mistakes and they devised ways to make it harder for music industry lawyers to bring them down just as easilyso they created first the P2P Internet protocol on which KaZaa exchanges were based (called FastTrack) and second the program that allowed its use (KaZaa itself)… and put each technology in the hands of a different company.

SharmanInteractive, the company that owns the software, was based in a tax haven in the Pacific and the servers were located in Denmark. Another tax haven, in this case a small British-owned island, hosted blastoise (operator of FastTrack) and a third party, interactive LEFregistered in Australia.


With all of you, KaZaa Media Desktop.

To further complicate matters, Blastoise licensed the use of KaZaa to third parties, such as the owners of the software. Morpheus, an alternative that became popular before KaZaa himself (thanks to the fact that it did not artificially limit the download speed)… until a non-payment of license fees caused that, from one day to the next (specifically, on February 26, 2002), Blastoise will disconnect Morpheus from FastTrack without warning.forcing this software to take refuge in the Gnutella network (less objectionable, but also with less content and worse performance).

Of course, none of that stopped them from being sued for copyright infringement. But unlike what happened with Napster, record labels weren’t the only reason for KaZaa’s downfall.

Evasion maneuver: the game of cat and mouse from Napster to Megaupload

Why do we use KaZaa? And why do we stop doing it?

our protagonist stood out against contemporary rivals such as eDonkey and Soulseek for its ease of use for the average user. The KaZaa sequence was simple: open the program> go to the search engine> enter the search term> choose the preferred result and press ‘download’. not clutter

Although the record industry ended launch sabotage campaigns based on filling the network with damaged or incomplete files, seeking user frustration. It ended up being easy to find results… but not that those results ended up being useful.

But, in addition, all the inconveniences that KaZaa saved us by using it, it compensated by generating them when installing it. And not because the installation was difficult, but because once it began to gain fame, those responsible they had no better idea than to monetize it by filling the spyware and adware installation package which, among many other things, altered the browser’s home page and 404 error page, inserted a ‘toolbar’ (advertising) into it, and captured user browsing data.

This caused a reaction of deep anger in the user community, and they soon came to light. unofficial versions whose main claim was to maintain KaZaa functionality by removing all attached malware. Although we do not have usage data, what I remember from that time is that KaZaa Lite (the main of these alternatives) ended up being as or more popular than the official client.

The reaction of those responsible for KaZaa was profoundly hypocritical: sued the creators of KaZaa Lite for “infringing their copyrights.” You understand the irony, right? Its creator, of course, responded as P2P advocates responded to the record companies and film distributors of that time: that its existence not only did it not harm KaZaa, but it increased its market thanks to users who would have otherwise simply ditched the ‘official option’.

Deceased KaZaa Lite, its place would end up being taken by Diet KaZaa, KaZaa Lite Tools or K-Lite: all of them required having the original software installed, so as not to incur the same legal error as KaZaa Lite. But users were beginning to get tired of so much change and hassle. KaZaa was no longer an option to search for ‘seamless’ files.

What has remained of the Napster culture on the internet and today's society

an ignominious death

Finally, the competition of a new and effective P2P software (Ares) and being buried in lawsuits, caused that the owners of KaZaa ended up giving up in 2006 and agreed to pay 79 million euros in compensation and ‘legalize’ his declining business. At the same time, they were also sued by those responsible for Morpheus, resorting to a law designed against mafia tactics, for what happened four years earlier.


Morpheus, the betrayed brother.

After, the ‘KaZaa’ brand entered the typical cycle of all failed brands, which are successively resold at increasingly lower prices to companies that try to make them profitable by dedicating them to new tasks. Thus, five years later, in 2011, we found out about a mobile app from KaZaa that sought to change P2P for music streaming to compete with a rising star, a certain Spotify. Before that, KaZaa’s own parents, Zennström and Friis, had tried to do the same with Rdio.

Long live the king Spotify. But that is a story for another time.

Leave a Comment