updated 10/21/2004 9:39:59 AM ET 2004-10-21T13:39:59

Kazaa's long-standing position as the most popular online file-sharing software appears to be over.  Last month, the daily average of file-swappers on the FastTrack peer-to-peer network, which includes Kazaa and related programs, was surpassed for the first time by users on the eDonkey/Overnet network, according to online tracking firm BayTSP Inc.

EDonkey/Overnet averaged 2.54 million users a day while FastTrack averaged 2.48 million, the firm said.  Kazaa users make up the largest proportion of FastTrack, said BayTSP spokesman Jim Graham.

Graham said there has been a steady decline in Kazaa users and a commensurate rise in eDonkey users since BayTSP began monitoring file-sharing networks 18 months ago for piracy on behalf of film and music companies.

Kazaa quickly became the most popular file-sharing software following the demise of the original Napster network, which shut down in 2001 after losing court battles with the music industry.

Over the past year, Kazaa distributor Sharman Networks has been one of the main targets of lawsuits and monitoring by the entertainment industry.  The recording industry also has sued thousands of file-sharers, many of them Kazaa users.

The usage figures are based on numbers displayed by the file-sharing programs.  The data are inflated by an unknown number of bogus users, actually entertainment company plants, who constantly load fake or incomplete copies of popular songs and movies to thwart file-sharers.

BayTSP's monitoring does not encompass all the file-sharing networks, however. Graham cites the BitTorrent network as an example of a file-sharing community that has grown increasingly popular.  The company tracks file-sharing on BitTorrent, but cannot tell how many people use it, Graham said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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