Limewire music store now open in beta

Limewire, formerly a popular Gnutella-based P2P file-sharing service, has opened the beta of its DRM-free download store.

Though the store was announced in August of last year, Limewire's DRM-free download shop has only now opened in public beta, offering tracks on an a-la-carte or subscription basis.

A delay is understandable, as the architecture of the service has changed considerably. Not based upon peer-to-peer file transfer, the 256K encoded MP3s -- and even a limited number of the 500K -- are hosted on Limewire servers. Purchase transactions can take place through the Web site in a browser, or through the P2P client's own interface.

Limewire's service saw it's first peak in popularity approximately four years ago, which garnered it a crackdown on file sharing by the RIAA. Last year, reports of its P2P client's relevance were mixed: Digital Music News claimed the service was installed in as many as 36% of PCs, while TorrentFreak claimed Limewire constituted 18% of all P2P clients deployed. (You're invited to try to do the math.)

Though BitTorrent clients have been frequently blamed by ISPs for gluttonous bandwidth consumption, no client has reached an installed base as high as Limewire's P2P.

Limewire's store enters the growing ranks of DRM-free music shops populated by Amazon.com, iTunes, eMusic and 7digital.

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