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LimeWire has been shut down for almost a year, but the former file sharing service is still hugely popular with people looking to download free music and other forms of media. An injunction by a U.S. District Court ordered LimeWire to suspend its operations in October 2010, and the company’s website has been replaced with a single splash page informing users about the injunction ever since. However, that page saw more than 1.1 million unique visitors in August alone, according to Google (s GOOG) Analytics statistics obtained by GigaOM, which makes one wonder: Was the decision to shut down LimeWire, rather than allowing the company to launch a licensed music service, a mistake?
LimeWire was one of the pioneers of P2P file sharing, and the company attracted millions of users after competitors like KaZaA and Napster were forced to shut their doors. At one point, estimates put LimeWire on every third PC worldwide. The company was eventually sued by the major labels in 2006, which alleged that it knowingly contributed to its users’ copyright infringement.
Company executives tried to deflect the lawsuit with a number of initiatives aimed at monetizing file sharing, which included an MP3 store, an ambitious attempt to monetize contextual advertising within LimeWire and finally a music subscription service. The big labels didn’t want any part of that and insisted that LimeWire instead had to shut down and pay for its sins. They eventually got what they wished for when U.S. District Court judge Kimba M. Wood sided with the music industry in May 2010, only to order a shutdown of the service in October.
LimeWire’s client has since been unusable, and the website links to a PDF of of Kimball’s court order instead of the LimeWire software. That doesn’t stop countless visitors from stopping by every month: Google Analytics clocked 1.1 million visitors in August alone. 85 percent of these were new visitors, which makes sense: The current injunction notice really doesn’t make you want to come back. 47 percent of those visitors came from the United States, and 53 percent were from other countries — a tribute to the fact that LimeWire was available in close to 20 different languages. More than half — 55 percent — of LimeWire.com traffic came from search.
In other words: LimeWire still has excellent Google juice, and it’s still very much on people’s minds despite having been all but dead for close to a year. Granted, converting all these file sharing users into paying customers is not an easy feat. However, services like Spotify have been fairly successful with freemium business models that capture people in need for free music and eventually get them to pay for a premium version. Maybe LimeWire should have been allowed to try the same. After all, chances are that all those folks who Google for LimeWire simply search for The Pirate Bay next.