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29 May 2005

Everybody have fun tonite! Everybody Wayne Chang tonite!

The Collegian (student newspaper)
University of Massachusetts @ Amherst
Thursday 27 January 2005

Sophomore student's i2hub
downloading technology
sounds sweet
to UMass music fans

By Juliana Leal, Collegian Staff

AMHERST -- The i2hub, an online collaboration software developed by UMass sophomore Wayne Chang, is all the rage among students on campus. Publicized primarily through word of mouth, the hub has become the venue for students to share and download files.

Launched in March of 2004, the hub has expanded to over 400 universities in approximately 20 different countries. At any given time during the school year, up to 6,500 users may be logged on concurrently.

"That number grows every month," said Chang, the 21-year-old Chief Executive Officer of the i2hub and former employee of Napster, Microsoft and Apple.

The i2hub operates on Internet 2, a fast internet connection used on college campuses across the country. This high-speed connection is the reason students are able to download small files, such as seven megabytes, in an average of five seconds.

Three development teams under the supervision of Chang work for free to keep the hub going. Though there is no monetary compensation, Chang said he receives applications every day from people who want to work for the hub.

"We're not in this to make a profit," said Chang. "We hope the students will like it and support us and make sure I don't starve." The team is currently looking for a web developer in the Amherst area.

Chang said he and his team hope to launch new software this week that is expected to make the engine faster and more efficient. The i2hub has created a partnership with ConnectU, an online social network, to allow users to share personal online profiles that may be accessed through the i2hub. Students will be allowed to use their existing profiles from sites such as ConnectU, TheFacebook, and Friendster, and import them to the hub.

In the midst of all the anti-piracy lawsuits and protests, the i2hub has been pointed out by the Recording Industry Association of America as a means to "hijack" Internet 2, and facilitate the illegal exchange of copyrighted materials. Chang said he disagrees.

"This is a student collaboration service, we have no control over what students use it for," he said.

The i2hub can be used for educational purposes with students sharing work and academic information over the network, but the bulk of files being shared is copyrighted material such as movies, songs, and even full music albums containing the cover art.

"I can see the idea of sharing ideas and individual work, but realistically, no one is going to use it for that," said Seth Berkowitz, UMass senior and Electrical Engineering major.

The FBI has not expressed any interest in the i2hub, and monitoring file sharing activity from outside the campus network is impossible. Chang worries about the university attempting to shut down the hub.

"I like to think of us as a grassroots organization. It wouldn't be nice of UMass to shut down one of their own," he said.

Edward Blaguszewski, director of the Office of News and Information, says no outside organization has contacted UMass in regards to the i2hub. The only time the school intervened in Chang's operation was in February of 2003, when he first began to run the hub on the UMass server. Office of Information Technology network monitors picked up on heavy network traffic coming from the i2hub. This activity was slowing down the campus internet connection, so OIT asked Chang to move his project off campus, which he did. A year later, the project was running again and remains to this day.

The University has not made any public statements on its connection with student Wayne Chang and his operation.

"UMass has over 24,000 students. We expect students to abide by the student code of conduct and respect the law. If they don't, their cases may be reviewed and they may face a sanction. But I have not heard of Wayne being involved in that category," said Blaguszewski.

Chang and his team are also working on side projects to service the student community. A new web site called Jungalu is a "localized EBay, all done in real time with no shipping time or charges," said Chang.

Currently the web site serves only to set up a connection between student textbook sellers and buyers, so students can get better deals on their textbooks. Chang plans to expand the site to incorporate the sale of all sorts of items. Unitedi2hub is an online meeting place for students that run their own hubs, and StallScribbles is a "digital stall where you can confess anything you want."


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