Justin Frankel

From Academic Kids

Justin Frankel is a computer programmer best known for his work on the Winamp media player application, and for inventing the Gnutella peer-to-peer system.

Frankel was born in 1978 and grew up in Sedona, Arizona. His father, Charles, was a lawyer, and his mother worked as a part time mail delivery driver and in a health food store. He had an aptitude for computers at an early age. His skill eventually led him to running the student computer network of the high school he attended, as well as writing an email application for the students. He also wrote a keystroke logging program that could record keystrokes of people using those computers, though he claims to have not actually used it. While in high school he started using the moniker Nullsoft for his software.

After graduating high school with a 3.9 GPA, he attended the University of Utah in 1996, where he took Computer Science, but dropped out after two quarters. It was a few months later he released the first version of Winamp under his newly formed company's name Nullsoft. By 1998, more than fifteen million people downloaded the program. Since many people sent in the $10 shareware fee that was asked in return for using the program, Frankel earned tens of thousands of dollars a month.

Frankel, along with Tom Pepper (who played a big part of the Winamp development and distribution), later completed Shoutcast, which allowed ordinary users with an Internet connection to broadcast, or "stream", audio over the Internet. Also he created the Advanced Visualization Studio, a plugin for Winamp which enabled users to create their own music visualizations in real-time, without any programming knowledge required.

Frankel sold Nullsoft to AOL in 1999 for $86 million.

On March 14, 2000, Frankel and Nullsoft colleague Tom Pepper released Gnutella using Nullsoft's corporate web servers, without AOL's knowledge. Gnutella was a new peer-to-peer file-sharing system like the original Napster system, which was used by users to share their MP3 collections with everyone who ran a Napster client. Unlike Napster, however, Gnutella allowed users to share any type of file, not just MP3s, to people who ran a Gnutella client. It also didn't have the single point of failure that Napster had: centralized servers that indexed where all the shared content was stored. Although Napster could be (and was) shut off just by turning off the centralized indexed servers owned by Napster, Gnutella did not rely on any centralized servers to find out what users had what content, so once a Gnutella network was created, it could not be shut off.

Since AOL was at the time merging with Time Warner, Gnutella seemed like a conflict of interest to Nullsoft's parent company, who knew that Time Warner was one of the parties who was taking legal action against Napster at the time. AOL ordered Gnutella to be taken off the Nullsoft corporate servers. However, since thousands of people already downloaded the software before it was removed from Nullsoft's web site, and the source code was also released under the GPL, Gnutella continued to be developed without Frankel's assistance, and became one of the most popular peer-to-peer file sharing networks of its time; Gnutella clients that were developed included BearShare, Morpheus, Gnucleus and LimeWire.

AOL watched Frankel very closely after that, taking down other projects that he tried to release to the public such as a MP3 search engine and a patch for AOL Instant Messenger to block advertisements in the application. Frankel threatened to resign (June 2, 2003) after AOL removed his program WASTE, a private password protected peer-to-peer file-sharing program, from the Nullsoft website. He stayed with AOL after that in order to complete Winamp version 5.0, a hybrid of the Winamp 2.x series and Winamp3. On December 9, 2003 AOL shut down Nullsoft's San Francisco offices and laid off 450 employees.

He announced his resignation from AOL on January 22, 2004 on his weblog, stating "Won't repeat it here (in two words: I've resigned). So begins chapter 3... or something cliche/poetic there. Or wait, does I've count as a single word? ha ha." One of Justin's current projects in development (according to his weblog) is a programmable effects processor called Jesusonic [1] (http://www.jesusonic.com/) and a new Software named NINJAM [2] (http://www.ninjam.com/) which allows several musicians to make real music together via the Internet.


  • "The company controls the most effective means of self-expression I have."

External links

ms:Justin Frankel pl:Justin Frankel


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