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See also: Network | File sharing | Protocol | Decentralized Clients

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Quick Facts

  • The company called Metamachine that distributed the edonkey software ceased operations in 2005 due to legal difficultys.
  • The edonkey software is now obsolete, the network can still be accessed using eMule and other ed2k clients.
  • eDonkey2000 was especially well-suited for large files, because it handled downloads almost fully automatically, downloads from multiple sources that have a file, and even shares partials of the file while they are being downloaded. When edonkey launched there were few filesharing programs with similar capabilitys.
  • You can use the availability search to find the most popular files on the network.
  • The windows version contained third party software that can be disabled during installation.
  • The edonkey software was closed source. There was an official Linux command line client and a Linux GUI. There are a few different open source clients, mldonkey (Linux), Shareaza (Windows), eMule (Windows), and LMule (Linux) are just a few.


infoAnarchy first reported about eDonkey2000 in October 2000. At the time it was basically a one-man project by Jed McCaleb ("Swamp"), but it quickly became notorious especially for trading large files (*cough* movies *cough*).

The eDonkey application always used a very simplistic and somewhat buggy GUI, without being obvious to the user the software had sophisticated methods of efficiently downloading files and correcting deliberate or random data corruption. The eDonkey-network is semi-centralized: There are loosely connected, separate index-servers, but there is no single centralized server. Anyone is encouraged to run an eDonkey server though the bandwidth requirements are now large due to UDP search traffic. Once the client has a list of servers to connect to, clicking the "Connect" button causes the application to cycle through the server list and try to find a server which still has available slots (every server has a maximum number of users). Servers exchange information about each other so that the server list is kept up to date.

Sadly from around 2008 onwards the majority of the ed2k servers have been operated in a hostile manner. Some servers are used to obtain information about users. Some servers send false responses to search querys that contain links to malware. Some servers heavily filter search results. Typically all servers located in the USA should be avoided.

Currently it appears that the only trustworthy server with capacity for a worthwhile number of users is "edonkey server No2" at port 4242.

Every server has a separate index of files. When you send a search request to a server, only that specific server is searched. Once a search is completed, you can then send the same request to the next server in the list to obtain further search results if necessary. Once a file is in your download queue extra servers are automatically queried via UDP packets (assuming you're not behind a firewall).

eDonkey was among the very first clients to offer a feature that is now found in almost every relevant file sharing application: Simultaneous downloading from multiple sources that have a specific file. Not only that, eDonkey also shares partially downloaded files, so that you can upload a file while you are still downloading it. Because partials are distributed with some intelligence, popular files quickly become available through multiple nodes in the network.

This has the downside that sometimes only parts of a file can be found but not the complete file, a situation impossible with other networks. The eDonkey Windows client always indicated with a colored bar which parts are currently available (blue, whereas a darker blue indicates higher availability), which ones have been downloaded (black) and which ones are not available (red). It automatically added new sources once they become available. The queue worked reasonably well All this makes it highly likely to get a complete file if you wait long enough.

Even some 56K modem users successfully used eDonkey to acquire several complete movies by simply letting the application run for days on end. The whole downloading/re-searching process was handled completely automatically. It's a good strategy to always have multiple large file downloads running in parallel, so if one pauses, the available bandwidth can still be used.

Other nice features of eDonkey included the availability search (search for the most popular files which will definitely be easy and fast to get) and good bandwidth regulation.

In the first couple of years the servers were typically limited to under ten thousand users. It was common for all the servers to be full. More efficient server software was created by independant programmers and soon replaced Metamachine's software.

In september 2005 Sam Yagan of Metamachine announced that they planned to convert edonkey to a system for selling content as soon as they could reach an agreement with the RIAA. This did not happened. Jed McCaleb later stated that Metamachine had been in talks to sell the software to another company. The company ceased operations soon after.


The official Windows version of eDonkey2000 contained third party software which can be disabled during installation. There was a Linux command line client for eDonkey2000 which can be remote controlled via TCP by a GUI. There is a Java-based GUI which runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, and an open-source GTK+-based Linux GUI, which also compiles and runs on *BSD.

Metamachine released a seperate client called Overnet, which was completely decentralized file sharing system developed with .NET and very similar to eDonkey in its user interface. Overnet was considered experimental. The intention was to moved to a combined client.

There are several independently developed open source clients for the eDonkey2000 network. mldonkey (written in OCaml) is very similar to the Windows version in look and feel, but sends searches to multiple servers simultaneously and provides access to other networks as well. eMule (written in C++) is the newer program, and is trying to match mldonkey feature for feature. Recently, a multi-protocol client called Shareaza has added support for eDonkey2000 as well.


  • eDonkey2000 had several safeguards against leechers. The most noticable was the enforced upload/download ratio - if a user has their upload speed set to 20 kilobytes per second, then they could download at approximately three times this. As well, since partially downloaded files are immediately shared a user running eDonkey will automatically share files as long as they're receiving some.
  • Using the eDonkey network is often a matter of waiting long enough for the requested file to arrive. One good way to improve the odds is to be sure that you are connected and ready to download during the weekends and short holidays (when you find a significant increase of the number of participating nodes and/or servers).


Clients which use the eDonkey2000 network:

  • mldonkey
  • eMule
  • Lmule
  • cdonkey
  • Shareaza
  • Hydranode
  • ShareDaemon - modular, portable client for Windows/Linux/MacOS with multiple interface modules.
  • xMule - Another great client. Stable and portable. Runs on Linux/BSD, Windows, Mac OS X, you name it.
  • aMule - "all-platform eMule P2P Client". It is now the linux client on the eMule links section on their webpage and support GNU/Linux, *BSD, Solaris and soon MacOSX and win32. aStats is a aMule statistics and dynamic picture generator.

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