Given the number of once-mighty file sharing clients and networks that have been forced to shut down following action by the RIAA, the developers of iMesh have decided to go legit. Well, sort of. It seems the remit of the P2P client is now to distribute content that is “100% legal,” deliver a thriving online music community, and offer users premium music downloads.
On the surface, the client and service looks highly polished. Complete with a colourful, GUI drawing more than a little inspiration from iTunes, it’s easy to find your way around. If you’ve never slapped your eyes on a P2P client before then you’ll almost certainly be impressed by the speed ease in which you can search for music and video, manage playlists and enjoy your downloads through a slick media player. You’ll also likely be impressed by the fact that you can join a community of users in making friends, exchanging messages and sharing media libraries. There’s also an online music download centre where you can pay to download tracks from some of your favourite artists.
Although these features may look great to the uninitiated user, more seasoned download freaks will quickly realize that iMesh is now suffering from a severe identity crisis. Is it a musical media player and premium download store like iTunes? Is it a place to hang out with fellow audiophile music fans like MySpace? Is it a client for getting hold of free music and video like Limewire and eMule? Actually, it’s all three, but the trouble is it doesn’t come close to any of the aforementioned apps in terms of performance.
If you want the benefit of having all of these services under one interface then it’s fine. The fact is though, that iTunes offers a far more comprehensive selection of pay-for music and MySpace has an infinitely larger user base. As for downloading tracks for free with iMesh, the boundaries are blurred even further. While it claims to offer nothing but legal files, it’s still possible to obtain copyrighted material using the clients albeit just a handful of results from a search – so renegade file hunters wouldn’t dream of giving up their eMules of Limewires and switching to iMesh.
There’s no disputing the fact that iMesh is a neatly-packaged app which has a noble stab at embracing the world of legal media downloads. It’s simple to operate and has some great features for connecting to an enthusiastic community of users. However, it’s hard to see this community staying loyal to iMesh as the bigger purveyors of legal and illegal music services continue to offer access to a much greater selection of content.