A lot of file sharing services end their services on the Internet after operating for a while. This can usually be attributed to a disparity between server and bandwidth bills and revenue. That's a big problem not only for Internet users but also for webmasters who tend to report on the better ones on a regular basis. The big players like Rapidshare, Megaupload or Mediafire are bound to stay, the rest may disappear from one moment to the other.
Regardless of that, some progress has been made in the past year on how files are shared between peers. The original file hosters all were using the same model. User A uploads the files to the servers of the file host, gets a link pointing to those files to share with other users.
Differences were usually only found in the limitations, mainly the maximum upload size, amount of allowed downloads of a file, retention on the server or download speeds.
The new breed of file sharing sites however make use of a different system to allow transfers between users. The main difference is the fact that those are direct transfers between the users, so that no data needs to be stored on the service's servers. This reduces the bandwidth bill of the service considerably.
This method has advantages and disadvantages, just like any other service. The main advantage is the ability to directly send files to other users, without having to store the data on third party servers. That's however also possible with other technologies like ftp, many instant messengers or IRC though. Those do require the installation of third party software on the other hand.
The main disadvantages are that both users need to be online for the transfer, that it has to be repeated if more than one user requests the file, and that the services make use of Flash to send and receive the files. Why is Flash bad for that? Because it has file size limitations. Users can upload files with a maximum size equal to their installed computer RAM. Receiving users can only receive files half the size of their actual RAM.
Finally, the majority of services make use of the UDP protocol, which may be blocked by restrictive firewalls and routers.
Jetbytes offers a plain interface, that's easy to use. It begins with the selection of a file to send to another user. The Choose File button opens a file browser where that file can be selected. It is suggested to put multiple files into one archive so that they can be send at once.
Jetfile will then display a url that the recipient needs to open. Once the url is opened the file transfer begins.
File transfer speeds depend largely on the uploading capabilities of the sending computer, and the download speed of the receiving one.
Dushare offers the same basic principle for transferring files as Jetshare, but adds several extra features on top of that. The process begins in the same way. The uploading user selects a file from the local computer system. It is now possible to add a password to the file, to protect it from users who spy on the network traffic.
The downloading user opens the url in the browser, and the transfer starts. A chat window is open, that can be used to chat while the file transfers.
Dushare is no longer available. The website returns a 404 found error.
The Xfiles page is filled with ads, which may turn away some users immediately, considering that there are valid file sharing alternatives available.
The process works in the same way though. The first user selects a file, and gets a url that then needs to be shared with the downloading user.
Another slick service that works exactly as the other services mentioned in the article. Pick a file, send the url to a friend so that the friend can download the file. Nothing more to say about this peer to peer file transfer service.
Files over miles is the last service in this category. It again offers to send files directly to other users.
All services are easy to use and offer the same functionality, with the exception of Dushare which adds password protection and chat on top of it.
These file sharing services are a solid alternative for sharing small (larger than the maximum email attachment size) to medium sized files directly with a single user. A major nuisance is the fact that the uploading user needs to use a different communication channel (e.g. email or IM) to send the file url to the downloading user.
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