UPDATE / Nov 8: Kim Dotcom has posted a series of screen shots for Mega, the new file sharing service he plans to launch on January 20 (the anniversary of his arrest).
They suggest the the entrepreneur and accused pirate is already using a beta version of the service himself (or at least wants to have some fun with the GCSB).
While many who lost files when Megaupload was shutdown by the FBI might be wary of signing on for the new "Mega", Dotcom says its one-click encryption, and distributed file storage (which could see one file stored in many locations through hosting partners) will encourage people to sign on.
The service will initially be free, but late introduce some form of monthly charge. Dotcom also sees ad revenue from Megabox, a parallel service that will give artists and/or their record label or movie studio a cut of ad revenue (unlike Megaupload, which offered cash rewards to uploaders rather than rights holders).
The screen shots (click any to zoom):
Given the runaway success of Megaupload - which, whatever its ethics or legality, had many innovations in everything from file sharing to ad serving -, you've got to assume Kim and his crew have again created a slick, user-friendly service. Dotcom is especially proud of the one-click encryption, which he says is a ground breaker.
The question now is whether the Megaupload hordes will come back.
Suspended by Gabon, Dotcom reveals new home for Mega domain: NZ
Nov 12: On Twitter, Kim Dotcom has announced the new home of the Mega domain: New Zealand.
His tweet posted this evening:
New Zealand will be the home of our new website: Mega.co.nz - Powered by legality and protected by the law.— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) November 12, 2012
Last week, a plan to host the Mega domain in Gabon (allowing for the URL Me.ga) had to be dropped after the tiny African nation suspended the account. Kim Dotcom blamed US pressue.
Registering an address in a given country doesn't mean a website or service has to be hosted in that country. Kim Dotcom has proposed Mega as a file sharing service distributed all around the world. He has also mooted the possibility of hosting many Mega files at a New Zealand data centre should a second cable to the US be laid, and a supermassive server farm be constructed (read: Dotcom's cable - fact or fantasy? Kim makes his case).
The question now is whether any party will lean on the adminstrator of the .co.nz domain, InternetNZ, and/or the New Zealand government before Mega's launch, set for January 20 (the anniversary of Dotcom's arrest).
Last week, Kim Dotcom told NBR - and an InternetNZ rep - that he would like to see the New Zealand government pass a safe harbour law that would allow the country to become the Switzerland of data.
But as of today, with the Crown acting for US authorities in his extradition case, Kim Dotcom and the government are some distance from a shared agenda.
New Zealand web addresses are managed by the Domain Name Commission, a wholly-owned subsidiary of InternetNZ.
Domain Name Commission head Debbie Monahan told NBR simply that Dotcom had as much right as anyone to register a local domain. ".nz domain names are registered on a first come, first served basis so if the domain name requested is in one of the 'open' second level domains, and is available, the person is able to register it."
Setback for Dotcom's new Mega service as Gabon suspends domain
UPDATE Nov 7: There has been a setback for Kim Dotcom's proposed Mega service today, with the tiny French-African nation of Gabon suspending the web address "Me.ga" (which Mr Dotcom fashioned by utilising Gabon's "ga" domain).
Russian media outlet RT quotes Gabon Communication Minister Blaise Louembe saying, "I have instructed my departments… to immediately suspend the site me.ga. Gabon cannot serve as a platform or screen for committing acts aimed at violating copyrights, nor be used by unscrupulous people."
On Twitter, Dotcom said it was a "witch hunt" that demonstrated the reach of the US government and Vivendi (a French conglomerate with media interests).
He pleged to find an alternative domain.
Dotcom launches splash site for new file-sharing service Mega, seeks investors
UPDATE Nov 1: Kim Dotcom has launched a registration-of-interest page for his proposed new file sharing service Mega - which he says will launch on the anniversary of the January 20 arrest.
On Twitter this afternoon, Dotcom promoted the URL Me.ga (".ga" is the domain for the African nation Gabon) which redirects to a page on his Kim.com site that collects emails from anyone interested in news, and forms for thos interested in becoming a third-party developer, hosting partner or investor.
Although it was only a splash page, it appeared as if it had been overwhelmed by traffic as it went live early afternoon.
"Millions of users hitting at once. I'm delighted by the interest. But servers can't handle it.The new Mega will," Dotcom tweeted, later adding that Mega needed "60 state-of-the-art portal servers" before it went live.
The splash page includes an explainer about how Mega will work.
Key features include one-click file encryption (with the "key" to each file held by the uploader so Mega staff won't know what's in it), and a distributed server system. Where Megaupload was hosted at a server farm in Virginia, Mega will is seeking hosts all around the planet - be they a couple of servers in a garage, or a large data centre. Multiple copies of the same file will be held on different servers in different territories, making the service hard to take down.
ABOVE: With its "make us an offer" line, Mega's "Become A Hosting Partner" page suggests a business model still under development, or at least loosely structured. Click screen shot to zoom.
The investor section of the splash site says, "We have raised sufficient funds to cover the launch, but we would like to provide Mega free of charge for as long as possible." In another tweet, he claimed he was seeing interest from un-named Arab investors.
Last weekend, Dotcom outlined new measures he says should reassure potential users amid a US Department of Justice threat to lay new charges if Mega launches (see below).
Today the entrepreneur was not about to crimp his style, despite the new drive to attract partners.
As Mega came under traffic stress, he merrily taunted US law enforcement, tweeting "All FBI agents pressing reload hahaha..... We see their IP addresses. LOL!!!."
DOJ trying to scare people off Mega, set to launch on anniversary of raid - Dotcom
Oct 27: Accused pirate Kim Dotcom has vowed to launch a file sharing service, Mega, on January 20 next year - the anniversary of the raid on his mansion.
He has told NBR ONLINE the US Department of Justice is already trying to scare people off Mega with a threat to lay new charges if the launch goes ahead - but also outlined reasons he thinks will reassure people, and see them come onboard regardless.
Dotcom announced the move on Twitter (below) and earlier detailed Mega in an interview with Wired.
He told NBR that Mega would have all non-US staff, but "we will be open to US users." (Megaupload's key staff were non-US too, of course, which didn't stop US authorities going after them - albeit aided by the fact the file sharing service's servers were located at a Virgina data centre.)
You've got to admire Kim's moxie.
But on the face of it there are a number of problems with Dotcom's plan.
Millions of Megaupload users lost files when Dotcom's original service was taken offline by the FBI.
These included many regular folk and small businesses who used Megaupload to store everyday files online. After all, Megaupload had been recommended in the same breath as Dropbox by the mainstream tech press.
But having been burned by Megaupload (or the FBI, if you like), will these people flock to Mega?
Dotcom summed up the situation neatly in a January bail affidavit, saying:
It is likely that users would consider any new iteration of Megaupload as inherently unreliable as it could be subject to a further incident in which the US government takes action to close the site down and thereby prevents users from having legitimate access to their data.
Moreover, the entrepreneur told the court he couldn't reanimate Megaupload even if he wanted to.
"There is no realistic prospect or possibility of restoring the business or recommencing the business having regard to both the seizure of the requisite servers and data storage equipment and to the seizure of all funds, monies and assets held both by Megaupload and by me personally,
Dotcom has been talking up a new file sharing service for a while now (including a July interview with NBR). He recently tweeted that the code was 90% complete. Servers, and lawyers, were being geared up for the Mega launch.
The US Department of Justice has taken note, and hinted at new charges if Dotcom goes back into the file sharing business.
In a filing last week against the latest attempt by Dotcom's US lawyer to get the Megaupload case thrown out in the US, a DOJ filing includes the aside:
If defendant Dotcom intentionally misled the court in New Zealand about his intentions and capabilities in order to obtain his release from pre-extradition confinement, it seems Defense Counsel’s representation might endanger Dotcom’s bail situation or even subject him to additional charges.
It's not immediately clear the DOJ has a strong legal case. Dotcom said in his affidavit that he couldn't relaunch Megauplaod at that point, not that he wouldn't.
Nevertheless, the mere threat, plus people's wariness, is surely enough to derail the new Mega?
People put off?
Does Dotcom think the DOJ threat will put people off?
"That's maybe one of the reasons why they are threatening us," he told NBR.
"But after the launch, when the new Mega has been understood, everyone will see that there is no reason to worry. We are confident that users are going to embrace the new Mega."
"The new Mega is significantly different from Megaupload with new features and innovations that make cloud storage safer and more affordable.
"The DOJ hasn't seen the new technology yet and is already issuing threats. It just demonstrates how trigger happy the prosecution is and it's not going to stop us from innovating. The law and the progress of society are on our side."
Dotcom didn't immediately reply to a follow up on a query about how he would monetize Mega - though his use of the world "affordable" implies a subscription fee of some kind (Megaupload charged $US9.99 a month for a premium account that offered faster file downloads, and the ability to watch a video longer than 60 minutes. It also made money from an inhouse-developed ad-serving system. Controversially, it also had a rewards system that saw cash payments to people who uploaded files that proved popular, which critics said incentivised piracy. Youtube - often cited in debates about Megaupload, gives users a cut on ad revenue around popular clips, including copyright-violating clips - says people doing a silly dance to a copyrighted song at a wedding - if the rights holder agrees to split revenue)
Mega's two key features
One key element of Mega will be that files will be encrypted. The person who uploads a file will control the "key" to unencrypt it.
The second is that Mega will be atomised.
Where Megaupload was hosed on a single server farm in the US, Mega will be distributed across, well, whoever wants to participate.
“We’re creating a system where any host in the world — from the $2,000 garage operation to the largest online host — can connect their own servers to this network,” Dotcom told Wired. “We can work with anybody, because the hosts themselves cannot see what’s on the servers.”
Given Mega will be distributed on servers all around the world - each with a unique copy of a file - it will be extremely problematic for any one government to raid the new service.
And even if it does, in any given location, it won't be able to read any of the encrypted files.
Dotcom sees this setup giving potential users peace of mind.
But if Mega does launch, and takes off, and is accused of harbouring pirated files ... well if I was in US law enforcement, faced with Mega being spread across computers in dozens of countries, I dare say I'd try and cut to the heart of the matter. Say, by asking the NZ police to mount another raid on Dotcom Mansion.