Skip to main content

A Desktop Java "Killer Application"

Posted by hansmuller on March 30, 2005 at 10:35 AM PST

It's been a while since I've contributed a blog. It's not for
lack of thinking about it. The inspiration for pounding out some
purple prose about developments around java desktop software has
flowed from my brain to the tips of my fingers half a dozen times of
the past month or so. For one reason or another I've set aside the
the urge to write each time. It gets easier and easier to do so,
until there's some twisted satisfaction in just coming up with a topic
that might have made a good blog entry. There's no need to actually
write anything, now that my brain has begun equating a brief personal
visit with a promising idea with the satisfaction of actually writing
about it. This is starting feel dangerously close to solipsism and so,
in an effort to ward off incipient madness, I'm going to wade back into
the blogosphere.

Here in the Java client department, we used to have to put up with the
occasional harangue about the lack of a "killer application". The
harangue would always begin in a patronizing tone, conceding that, oh
yes, there are tens of thousands of desktop Java applications for all
kinds of specialized tasks and specialized people. What we're not
seeing out there, from our elevated perspective (they'd continue), is
just one gigantically successful, widely used, everyone has just got
to have it, killer application. The usual response to this kind of
tirade was to tick off a list of applet games, or collaboration tools
like QNext or Elluminate, or - and this was always the coup de grace -

A year ago, at about 150 thousand downloads a week, the
Limewire (GNUtella) file sharing application was a pretty respectable
killer application. It's been listed on for about 18
months and for most of that time it's been among the top 10 or so.
Now it's number two.

Limewire's popularity, measured in terms of number downloads or
the number of active GNUtella nodes, has been growing steadily. In
terms of downloads, the application is now up to about 1.4 million a
week. That's a lot. At the moment (per the stats on,
it's about 3X WinZip, 10X RealPlayer, and about 20X Windows XP Service
Pack 2. Limewire's popularity can be attributed to a variety of
things, including great performance, an easy to use Swing GUI, and the
lack of any kind of co-bundled spyware or ham-fisted registry
busting installer. I think it's fair to guess that the demise of
BitTorrent listing sites like SuperNova didn't hurt either. However
the BitTorrent "network" has hardly gone away and our own Supreme
Court is puzzling over the merits of file sharing as I write this.
I hope that they'll find that the good force balances the dark side.

If you haven't given this application a try, check it out at href=""> or The very usable GUI features a custom Swing look and
feel that supports href=""> skins
and has been localized for more than a dozen languages. Startup is
fast, and the app automatically "swarm" downloads from multiple
GNUtella nodes when that's possible. Limewire is open source
so if you're a developer you may want to visit href=""> Or
just join the millions of people who just use it.

Related Topics >>