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LimeWire mixing social networking, P2P

With the beta release of LimeWire 5.0, the file-sharing giant brings Jabber-compatible services buddy lists and social elements to peer-to-peer networking.

LimeWire 5.0 allows users to share files with friends on any Jabber-compatible system, as well as to have search results incorporate files from the LimeWire store. Lime Wire

LAS VEGAS--Get ready for the collision of social networking and peer-to-peer file sharing.

With the beta release of LimeWire 5.0 (download for Windows| Mac), which was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show here, the popular P2P service is incorporating a social element that will enable people using Jabber-compatible services like Gmail to share files with friends on their buddy lists. Lime Wire calls this a "personal sharing network."

The idea, said Lime Wire CEO George Searle, is to add trusted context to user searches for content, given that people are more likely to want--and feel comfortable with--content from people they know.

Additionally, Searle explained that the new social features of LimeWire--which has 70 million monthly unique users and more than 5 billion queries a month--will enable people to choose whether to make files available to the public at large, or just to their friends and family.

In many ways, this is much like many other content-sharing systems. But to Searle, adding a social component to LimeWire means making what is already an extremely popular service more personal to many users.

Essentially, the way the new feature works is that users will be able to decide whether to make files--photographs, for example--available to anyone on LimeWire, or just to people on their buddy lists. Similarly, users will be able to search for files from their friends. And this will take advantage of a sharing system that tens of millions of people already use, something that Lime Wire hopes will encourage many on the service to adopt the social elements.

Searle said he hopes that the social feature will allow users to trust the sources of the content they share across the system in a way that's not really possible when sharing with strangers.