Grouper can also be used as a tool for universities where students can form study groups to share notes and collaborate on projects. It could also be embraced by professors to distribute course material or post audio or video lectures. Felser said plans are also in place to offer custom versions for university network administrators to allow students to legally share personal files amongst themselves. Running Grouper through university networks can save Internet bandwidth costs because file transfers are done between machines on the local network (unlike other P2P networks).Mercora, the peer-to-peer radio network launched by former McAfee Chief Executive Srivats Sampath, also combines IM and image-sharing capabilities, but that service is public. Google Inc. runs a similar service, the Hello application that came with the acquisition of Picasa earlier this year. Businesses have generally frowned on peer-to-peer usage because of the security implications, a potential stumbling block for widespread adoption of Grouper. The Skype P2P VoIP client, for instance, has been banned from some workplaces because of the data leakage risk. However, Felser said Groupers emphasis on being a small, private, encrypted network minimizes the risk. "Were a heck of a lot safer to the business because we target very small groups of people who already know and trust each other. And we have a very firm anti-spyware policy. Well never add spyware or adware of any kind." Grouper, which launched with $1 million in angel seed funding, expects to make money from a feature-rich premium version for power users and SMBs. Felser said rich media advertising will be embedded into the free version, and e-commerce tie-ins with online music stores and photo printing services will also offer business opportunities. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
Felser, who served as vice president and general manager of AOLs Spinner, WinAmp and Shoutcast music brands, believes the invite-only element separates Grouper from others in the space.