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Believe it or not, eMule is still alive and kicking. These days, file sharing is all about BitTorrent and file-hosting websites like RapidShare and the ill-fated MegaUpload. Many of the older file-sharing applications have long-passed – LimeWire, Kazzaa, AudioGalaxy, Napster – they’re no more. But eMule is still with us. It’s a peer-to-peer file-sharing application that uses eDonkey servers and its own decentralized Kad network.
Unlike many peer-to-peer applications, eMule is an open-source project and it doesn’t come bundled with any adware or spyware. With an integrated search feature and a shared files directory, eMule represents another era of file sharing.
It may be hard to believe – given all the attention paid to BitTorrent and other file-sharing methods – but eMule is still quite popular. When I wrote this article, eMule had received over 761,000 downloads this week and was the 10th most popular download on SourceForge.
eMule is a Windows-only program, but Mac OS X and Linux users aren’t left out. They can use aMule, which is cross-platform. aMule has a similar interface to eMule and uses some of the same code.
In 2007, TorrentFreak estimated that as many as 60% of the available eDonkey servers were “fake” or “spy” servers. Fake servers have different motivations – some return results filled with malware to try and infect your system, while some monitor your eMule usage and may send it to anti-peer-to-peer companies.
Fake servers often return search results full of garbled, nonsensical, or empty files. They won’t display actual, real files – if you’re connected to a fake server, your files won’t show up in other users’ searches.
eMule’s Kad network does bypass the need for servers, helping with this problem. After eMule finds a few other Kad-supporting clients, it can connect to the Kad network. It’s sort of like DHT in torrent clients.
Like with other peer-to-peer networks, bad clients can also poison the network with fake files that appear in search results.
Lack Of Updates
eMule was last updated in April 2010 – nearly 2 years ago. While development isn’t completely stalled, future updates will likely only contain minor changes and bug fixes. uTorrent and many other BitTorrent clients release updates at a comparatively breakneck pace.
eMule lacks a few features we take for granted in modern peer-to-peer programs. It doesn’t support IPv6, which will likely be important in the future. It also doesn’t support NAT traversal – if you can’t use UPnP or forward ports manually, you’ll get a “low ID” which indicates that other clients can’t connect to you. This will reduce your download speed – uTorrent, for example, gets around this with its NAT traversal feature.
Its interface also feels a bit out-of-date and would likely be confusing to many users who are only familiar with torrent clients.
Today’s most popular file-sharing methods – both BitTorrent clients and online file-hosting sites – make you search the Web for .torrent files or links to downloads. eMule is more similar to Napster and other old school peer-to-peer applications – it includes a search tab. After connecting to a server on the Servers tab, you can search for files and start downloading them.
This approach may help you find older, rarer files that may not have torrents, but it also has some downsides. Not as many people use eMule and other eDonkey clients, so it may be hard to find some files. And if a file only has a few sources, the file may not be what it claims to be.
While eMule’s interface may feel a little outdated, it does support multiple sources. When you start downloading a file, eMule will download pieces of the file from various users that have the file, so you aren’t just downloading a file from a single user.
eMule uses a credit system. When you upload to another eMule client, that eMule client remembers you’ve uploaded to them and gives you download priority in the future. This encourages users to upload as well as download.
Do you use eMule, or do you prefer a different file-sharing application? Let us know in the comments.