Anyone who has been sharing files before BitTorrent became popular has heard the name of eDonkey (or eD2k), one of the first protocols build for larger files. Based on servers, which can be setup by anyone through a simple software. It can be described as a semi-centralized protocol, and currently there are around 7 servers online.
However, most clients also feature a secondary, decentralized network, titled Kademlia, which works without any servers.
The hype around BitTorrent has taken its toll on the network, but it is still popular in Italy and France, among others. At its peak time it was the major P2P network for large files such as movies, games and anything larger than a few megabytes, although small files are also available.
Slow And Steady: eDonkey
One of the major downsides of the network are very slow downloading speeds. Especially when just starting, it can take several days to finish downloading anything large, partially due to the credit system. This system rewards users who upload a lot, and gives them priority in the uploading queue of others, and is used by most eD2k-clients nowadays.
This means that until you get tolerable downloading speeds, you have to first add a few files to the queue and wait, wait, and wait some more. After a few days, you should have gathered enough points to download with an at least somehow acceptable speed.
A Brief History
eDonkey was developed by Jed McCaleb in 2000, along with a client called eDonkey2000. It quickly rose to one of the most popular networks, until BitTorrent came along. In 2002, a new, independent client, titled eMule, came along, which worked better in several ways and effectively replaced the original client.
Even though in 2005, developer MetaMachine closed doors, following a cease and desist letter from the RIAA, the network lived on.
Today, there are still more than 2 million users, with a few hundred thousand connected, according to Peerates.net, with Italy, Spain and France at the top of the list. Also, it is very popular in China, although people prefer to use the serverless Kademlia-network there. If you’re looking for content in these languages, eDonkey might be worth a shot.
Clients: Which One To Choose?
Loads of different clients appeared on the scene in the last decade, but one has proven to be the most stable and reliable: eMule. There are dozens of forks and mods, like eMule Plus, but you can mostly ditch these and just go for the original.
We wrote a detailed review and tutorial of the software here, and also included advice on how to be anonymous when using it, and how to find legitimate files.