Hands On: First Look At Kim Dotcom's Mega [Updated]

Ahead of the official launch tomorrow, Kim Dotcom's Mega is live early for some members of the press. The landing page at mega.co.nz now redirects to kim.com/mega (in Safari) and shows an error to people using Chrome. Here's everything we know so far about the new Megaupload. UPDATED WITH HANDS-ON IMPRESSIONS.

First of all, Mega is not finished — according to TechCrunch's story, the launched site will include a roadmap for what's ahead. It includes some ambitious clues, including an SDK with fully documented API and collaboration features like user-to-user messaging.

What we do know: The service is basically a Dropbox clone that will offer 50GB of storage for free and then three tiers of service: Pro 1 (500GB of storage) for €10 ($13) Pro 2 (2TB of storage) for €20 ($25) and Pro 3 (4TB of storage) €30 ($38).

It's still to early to pass any kind of judgement on the available information, but we're still looking for a feature that we couldn't get somewhere else. Did Dotcom use his mastery of hype to inflate the image of boring service? We have trouble believing it.

There is a Mega launch event tomorrow, Sunday January 20. We'll update when we know more. [TechCrunch]

HANDS-ON IMPRESSIONS: Kim Dotcom's Mega officially launches tomorrow, but we're already in. Based on the membership plans, the service might look like it's just another online storage locker like Dropbox or Google Drive. But it's way more than that. Mega is a weapon aimed straight at copyright rights holders. It's maybe the most private, invincible file-sharing service of all time.

When you first sign in, you see (instead of a big red button coyly promising to change the world) a simple drag-and-drop upload tool. A Mega upload tool.

From there, you're immediately prompted to agree to terms and conditions. Our resident lawyer told us they're not very well written, but in essence, they absolve Mega for any liability whatsoever for and naughty things you might do with the service. Smart Move, Kim.

After agreeing, you arrive at your Cloud Drive — the file manager where all of your everything lives. When you select one of your files or folders to upload you realise how fast this thing is. I went ahead and uploaded Metallica's Kill Em All in just a few minutes.

From there, with a single right-click, I can generate a download link for the album. And then I can send it to whoever I want. It's Megaupload with a file manager.

So what's to stop Mega from going down just the way Megaupload did? Mega's privacy, which is a no-foolin' stroke of genius. See, all of your files are encrypted locally before they're uploaded, so Mega has no idea what anything is. It could be family photos, work documents or an entire discography of your favourite band. Poof: online and easy to share. Importantly, Mega doesn't have the decryption key necessary to get in. See? It's a masterstroke of copyright subversion.

To explain further, Mega's terms say that nobody can access your stuff without your personal decryption key. And they don't have it. Only you do. The company does, however, stipulate in the privacy policy that they might cooperate with law enforcement. But big deal; what are they going to turn over? When Twitter and Facebook cooperate with the authorities, they have access to your data. All Mega has is an encrypted file.

So why is this a copyright killer? Well, actually, it's way way more than a copyright killer; it enables the most private data exchanges of any online service available to the public. Prying eyes will have a hard time getting to them.

That's important because the private exchange of your data has always been a huge problem with online services. Take Google for example: Big G sometimes complies with requests to hand over your data — the data you thought was private. Google does it because it can be compelled to do so, and because it has access. Conversely, if authorities wanted to compel Kim Dotcom and company to hand over your data, they wouldn't be able to do it. And getting other information out of Mega — like the technical details about how its keys work — is legally problematic, to say the least.

So now two very big questions remain, and we can't answer them from simply demoing the site. The first, is how secure is Mega? Can hackers break in? Can the FBI?

The second question, is what are Kim Dotcom's future plans for this service? He's provided a vague roadmap for what lies ahead, but we can't be sure. We're looking forward to hearing what Kim Dotcom has to say at the launch press conference tomorrow. We'll be there, red-eyed and struggling to write coherently.

Additional reporting by Melissa Ulto, who is a writer for MIPJournal.


Comments

    EDIT: I see you fixed the error on the storage limits from the version you posted earlier. Good.

    Now: Mega looks like it could also be a useful and affordable backup storage service - a la Amazon Glacier - depending on what level of data reliability Kim is offering.

    Last edited 19/01/13 9:04 am

    What happens to your money when the US take his servers again? I'll stick with Dropbox thanks.

    "I went ahead and uploaded Metallica’s Kill Em All"
    "From there, with a single right-click, I can generate a download link for the album. And then I can send it to whoever I want"

    Sorry, but isn't this exact thing what got Kim shut down last time?

      In the very next paragraph:
      So what’s to stop Mega from going down just the way Megaupload did? Mega’s privacy, which is a no-foolin’ stroke of genius. See, all of your files are encrypted locally before they’re uploaded, so Mega has no idea what anything is. It could be family photos, work documents or an entire discography of your favourite band. Poof: online and easy to share. Importantly, Mega doesn’t have the decryption key necessary to get in. See? It’s a masterstroke of copyright subversion.

    I don't get it. If you're publically giving out the link to copyrighted material, companies will be able to tell you're doing the wrong thing. Doesn't matter if Mega doesn't know what the files you're uploading are. Shouldn't they be able to tell from the link which user is distributing the copyright protected content, and which file on the server? I mean, if they can't get Mega to take down the specific files, shouldn't they be able to make them ban the user, or something?
    Or am I just reading it wrong/not understanding it properly?

      Didn't this happen anyway? Sure files get taken down as they're found/reported, but the sheer volume of copyright infringement going on makes it impossible to keep up with on any meaningful level. And with 50 gig free what's to stop new accounts being instantly made and uploaded to even if whole accounts get banned. All Kim really needed was a site that was more difficult to shut down. Whether or not this is that I don't know enough about the technicalities to say, but it seems to be what Mega is aiming for.

      How do they know what the files are? How does anyone know what the link leads to until they download it and enter the decryption key?

        If you're publically sharing the files with anyone, you'd probably have the name of the file/s and the decryption key on there, otherwise making them publically available would be useless.
        If you're just sharing files privately, how would it be different to other services?
        With other file hosting services, how do the authorities find out if you're sharing files illegally if you're sharing the files with only your friends? Do they do routine checks of everyone's accounts to check what they have on there?

        I think I must be missing something or reading it wrong. :/

          Your confusion stems from the assumption that Kim has started this service to help the users. he hasn't. it about him making money off advertising/paid services without the inconvenience of getting shut down again. last time he got busted because he knew there was loads of illegal material on his servers, this time he can play the innocent. so yes, they may take down illegal content at the request of the copyright clowns, but they won't be shut down for knowingly hosting illegal content.

    Just a Q. If you are going to share a file. you send the other person the link. do you then have to give them the decrypt key? or is it built into the link? Either way it negates the act of having the key there.

    What happens if you lose the key, or your hdd crashes or you want to access the file from a different (new) computer? Since Mega doesn't have the key, do you lose your data forever?

    "it enables the most private data exchanges of any online service available to the public"
    << this? Have you heard of TOR? Or any of the other dark net clones? How is this more private?
    Basicly if someone identifies a file as being bad//copyright, Kim//Mega can tell them who uploaded it. In fact he could be forced to. His argument will be that he doesn't know the content. Who ever uploaded it is still identified. He has your credit card details...It only protects Kim not the users.

    All the encryption and key do is protect Kim not the user. That's the point of it, so he doesn't get busted again.

    Actually, part of Kim's deal with the FBI, in order to avoid execution and torture, was that he would help catch other illegal file uploaders in the creation of a new trap for would be file-sharing terrorists. The honey in the trap is that it is completely secure, which it is anything but.

    Great idea Deal Breaker... Site might even stay up for a while...

    There is something really wrong with mega.co.nz service. I registered, I got the email answer and clicked on the confirmation link. Then I tried to login but I kepp getting the answer "bad password". Anybody had the same problem or how to deal with it?

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