Peer-to-peer networks are everywhere these days, but they are rarely very social. Nicotine is a SoulSeek client, a network that differs from many because of its social interaction. It functions very much like IRC (especially allowing users to form rooms, usually centered around a genre of music, making it easier to find people with similar taste to yourself), but with the added ability of browsing other users’ music collections. Next to each user’s name is the number of files they are sharing, the rate at which they can upload, and an icon indicating whether they allow anyone to download, or only friends. Due to its highly social nature, SoulSeek tends to frown upon leeches (those who download without sharing in return). This encourages most users to share, which makes it easier for everyone to find what they want.
Nicotine is but one interface to this network, but is one of the more accessible choices for Linux. The key bits are there, including uploading and downloading, control over what you share (and with whom), and a search function that works. It has a chat system, which is fairly central to the experience. From discussion about the music you like, to reviews and recommendations from other humans with similar tastes, SoulSeek is a very social sharing scene, and steps beyond the faceless distribution of traditional peer-to-peer networks.
If you haven’t tried it already, SoulSeek is a wonderful alternative to traditional file-sharing networks, where the emphasis is on “finding what you want”. It works best if you approach it from a “browse the collections of other people who like what you like” perspective, and use it to discover new music you didn’t know you liked.
Update: The original Nicotine project seems abandoned, but the Nicotine Plus fork is alive and well. This is one of the many wonderful things about Open Source Software: It can outlive the interest of the original developer(s).
- Nicotine Plus for Ubuntu (requires 7.10+)