Features

What a waste

National | America Online created a furor with a program available to the public only for a few hours.

Issue: "Supreme warning," July 5, 2003

America Online created a furor with a program available to the public only for a few hours. A program called Waste was supposed to allow up to 50 people to form their own encrypted network.

The programmers at AOL's Nullsoft division (who created this software) sought to create a new way for people to work together online. Reports said the program included chat, file sharing, and instant messaging. Waste would allow a team to work together across long distances with less worry about security leaks.

Soon after an open-source copy of Waste started circulating, Nullsoft pulled it and AOL issued a legal notice demanding that all existing copies be destroyed. Then the 24-year-old computing wunderkind in charge of Nullsoft, Justin Frankel, announced plans to resign. (This college dropout was a dot-com darling, since AOL bought his startup after the success of its original software, the WinAmp music player.)

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Waste's file-sharing feature may have been what spooked AOL, which feared that the software might become a new Napster for pirating music. Yet the software also had obvious business and educational uses that may go unexploited due to copyright concerns.

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