For many millennials, peer-to-peer sharing platform LimeWire was a cultural touchstone of the early 2000s, as iconic of the era as boy bands and bell-bottom jeans. It may have suffered a tragic demise at the end of the decade, but what goes around comes back around: Bell-bottom jeans are stylish again, and LimeWire is crawling out of its grave—this time, more legally, too.
Its resurrection comes as a pair of serial entrepreneurs have bought the rights to the defunct platform, with hopes to capitalize on the next generation of cultural phenomena: the world of Web3. The buyers, two brothers from Austria, aspire to relaunch LimeWire as a cryptosphere marketplace, selling NFTs linked to music, artwork, and content.
LimeWire’s fame peaked in the mid-aughts as a go-to hub for cool kids to download music and movies, amassing vast collections of pop culture—often illegally, as the platform earned a reputation as one of the early pioneers of the internet piracy boom. It met its maker in 2010 after a federal judge ruled to shut down the business over copyright infringement; major record companies then settled out of court with LimeWire’s CEO at the time, Mark Gorton, for $105 million.
Yet the controversy didn’t seem to make LimeWire any less beloved. “Even if you look on Twitter today, there’s hundreds of people still being nostalgic about the name,” Julian Zehetmayr, who is half of the entrepreneur team alongside his brother Paul, told Bloomberg. “Everybody connects it with music and we’re launching initially a very music-focused marketplace, so the brand was really the perfect fit for that with its legacy.”
It does seem befitting. Whereas LimeWire was at the forefront of the Web 2.0 economy in its heyday, it now has a chance to ride the evolution of internet culture. According to the Zehetmayrs, the new Web3 platform will debut in May, first with music-related NFTs such as exclusive songs, artwork, merchandise, and backstage content. It will have no affiliation with LimeWire’s original creators, and will also have its own cryptocurrency token.
Its advisory board includes executives behind Grammy-acclaimed music artists Wu-Tang Clan and H.E.R., and according to the Zehetmayrs, the platform has already signed 10 “really big mainstream” artists to be part of its offering.
With that, LimeWire is the latest in a string of tech nostalgia reboots, in which dusty brands reinvent themselves to survive in today’s digital universe. There have been several attempts to remake Myspace, as well as the birth of NeoCities, a successor to GeoCities. However, very few of those have found staying power.
It’s also not the first to move to crypto: In 2018, rival internet pirate BitTorrent was acquired by blockchain startup Tron, which is owned by crypto millionaire Justin Sun. And in December, RadioShack revealed it would become a forum to trade cryptocurrencies.