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rapidshare_smileyThis website was first launched back in 2005 following an e-mail conversation attempt I had with the famous rapidshare.com crew. Back then I was suggesting them a partnership to bring RapidShare services to Eastern Europe. The idea behind it was to offer high-speed access in the local loop by distributing files closer to local exchanges.

Going online

Needless to mention, the more established brand did not bother to answer and start the conversation. I launched the website nevertheless, and got approved in Google AdSense without concerns regarding brand spoofing. I posted a link to rapidshare.com and stated clearly the lack of affiliation and the difference between our services (rapidshare.ro has always been free of charge and all content policed for copyright infringement).

Technical background

The website was using a simple PHP script with MySQL backend. I think it is still available somewhere on the Internet. The eternal problem of the upload bar was never solved properly by its author and it’s still an issue with modern scripts and AJAX implementations today. The upload speed was not limited except by physical restrictions deriving from the implementation (PHP script, 100Mbps network card, storage performance etc). The download was capped at 2048Kbps to allow multiple connections simultaneously.

On the hardware side I used a dual Intel Xeon (hyperthreading-only back then) and an iSCSI (1Gbps) storage bay with S-ATA disks in RAID50. The immediately available storage space was 2TB and around 500GB got used pretty quickly (over the first 2 months or so). Files were set to expire after 30 days without download, so in the long run it was prone to stabilize and keep growing at a predictable rate.

The interesting spin was in regard to the operating system - SuSE Linux for rapidshare.ro – in this case running virtualized under Xen which in turn was deployed on NetBSD for performance and security reasons. Today such a solution is not out of the ordinary in any way, but was  a tour-de-force back in 2005 and relying only on Open Source kept the cost to a minimum.

The overall uptime was not great – probably in the region of 92%, but decent for a free service advertised as a beta trial. No active promotion was done for it whatsoever, but word-of-mouth and people posting links to their files on forums worked just as well. The users were happy to use it for free and benefit from the unlimited upload speed and large file limit (1GB).

Copyright hassle

Running such a service is more than a technical or monetization challenge. Over the 9 months while rapidshare.ro was online I had several incidents regarding copyright infringement (settled by removing the suspect files) and two very serious ethical issues – security groups flagging files which contained hacking manuals and other potentially sensitive information.

In 2006 rapidshare.com emerged from their Swiss lair through the voice of an IP lawyer and asked for the website to be taken offline. Were this a candle worth the flame, probably I would have fought back, forced them to settle and made cheap headlines for a while. After all, they have a similar name and operate a well-established website while I was only showcasing my ability to deliver a large-scale solution with COTS (commercial, off-the-shelf) components.

Back in business

I have been in the industry for over 10 years now, after surviving the first technology bubble and witnessing the arrival of cloud-computing. I pioneered some of the technologies considered mainstream today. The likes of Google and Amazon are leading in distributed storage and managing large filesystems, while a legion of start-ups are trying to get a slice of the pie. Rapidshare.ro will remain online for two reasons – as proof of pioneering these concepts when in their infancy and to review and comment on the industry trends from an educated point of view. Thank you for your time – I hope you will find this content useful.

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