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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.


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