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Interactive File Sharing on the Web
By Mahesh Rathod

Here's how you can share interesting files with other hosts over the Internet

When the World Wide Web started, this is how it used to be. I would put up a Web page, you would link to it, and I would link to yours. To get around, we would all "surf the links". The Web was a Web. But shortly after, the likes of Yahoo! and Lycos came in and built search engines, or information portals, all you had to do was go to one place on the Web to find all the information. But the problem with portals is that they stuff too many ads. Also, many times they provide outdated information as they only control the flow of information and are not interactive.

Today, there are other technologies that can put the personal interaction back into the Internet. So, how about some file sharing techniques over the Internet? When you run a file sharing software such as Gnutella, Napster or BearShare software and connect to the respective networks, you bring with you the information you wanted to make public. This could range from a single file, a directory, to your entire hard drive.

Imagine having a firm grasp of the data that you display over the Internet, and you control it's sharing. Want to stop sharing? Go ahead and take those files offline. Want to share more? Select more files and share them.

So what is file sharing?

File Sharing

Aimster Gnutella
Audiogalaxy ImeWire
AudioGnome Mojo Nation
BearShare Morpheus
Freenet Napigator
Filetopia Napster

Basically, file sharing is anything that allows the exchange or swapping of files (audio, graphics, animation, etc.) among users across a network and in this case the Internet.

All you need for is a file-sharing client (for example Gnutella) on your system. File sharing client software such as Gnutella is basically a mini search engine and a file serving system in one. When you search for something on the Gnutella Network, that search is transmitted to everyone in your Gnutella Network 'horizon'. If anyone had anything matching your search, he/she will inform you.

Keep in mind that you need to leave your computer switched on and your file-sharing program running so that people can download files from your machine. Don't worry about someone grabbing files from your hard drive. These programs do allow you to close off the file-sharing part of the program.

How does file sharing work?
File sharing software is built on a certain protocol. The basic operation of this protocol allows you to search files on other computers over the Internet. Those computers in turn, send your search to their neighbors, and so on. Computers (or hosts) that receive your search will check their shared files and return any matching files back to you. When you have received search results, you may download the files from other computers.

Only the files that you specify in your shared folder are visible to other users who are searching. If you do not allow uploads, your shared files will not be returned as search results to other users.

You have complete control over the number of hosts that are allowed to connect to your computer, whether or not they can download your shared files, and which files you want to share based on their location and file type.

Sharing files with BearShare
You first need to download BearShare client from the www.bearshare.com.

The BearShare Setup Wizard appears the first time you launch the program and helps you install and automatically configures your settings.

When you run BearShare, it will automatically try to connect to the Gnutella network. Gnutella service providers will then grant you the IP addresses of several other computers in the network for you to connect to. BearShare then tries to connect to those computers, and collect the addresses of more hosts. This process continues until the number of connections you specify is reached.

After you have a few steady connections, it is now time to move on to the Search Page. You enter key words or phrases for files you are searching for into the Search Edit box to begin your search. After a little while, the results will appear in the Search Results List. Depending on your connection speed and the number of hosts you are connected to, some searches may take a little longer than expected.

When you find a file you want, double click on the file in the list. Your file will be queued for downloading and you will automatically be switched to the downloads page. The downloads page shows you the status of all of your pending, in progress, and completed downloads. Sometimes you will not be able to download a file from a host for a number of reasons such as bad connections. You should try the download sometime later, or get the file from another host.

The uploads page shows you the files other people have requested from you. Sharing forms the basis of the Gnutella community, and is strongly encouraged. The BearShare Setup Wizard configures your settings to automatically share completed downloads by adding your downloads directory to the list of shared directories.

The Monitor page shows you all the files you are sharing, along with the number of times each file has been downloaded, requested, or returned as a search result. You can also see what other people are searching for from here. The BearShare monitor ranks files according to their popularity, so this is a good way to find what kinds of files people are looking for. You can open or play shared files using the program associated with the file type directly from the Monitor window. BearShare automatically 'watches' the shared folders for changes, so if you add or remove files from the folder using Windows Explorer or desktop, the Monitor will update and reflect the new status.

There are a host of other features you will find in Bearshare, but going into complete details here would be impossible. So go ahead and pull down BearShare and try all its features.

Mahesh Rathod can be rathodmp@hotmail.com
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