Kazaa (its full name is Kazaa Media Desktop or KMD) is a decentralized Internet peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing program owned by Sharman Networks. Kazaa is described as "a proactive, virtual, global technology and publishing company, focused on delivering peer-to-peer software." Sharman Networks maintains that peer-to-peer file sharing has legitimate applications and that the technology should not be prohibited simply because some people might misuse it to exchange copyrighted materials. To that end, Kazaa has partnered with a company called Altnet to promote legally licensed music files, videos, video games, and time-restricted downloads. Kazaa has been criticized in its effort to go mainstream, mainly because it includes advertising software (adware) in the installation. Kazaa advertising clients include Microsoft, Netflix, and DirecTV.
Unlike the file-sharing program Napster, which used a centralized server to index files, Kaaza users share files directly from each other's hard drives. A computer's owner can decide during Kazaa setup which, if any, files on their computer will be available for sharing. If a computer on the Kazaa network is configured to download files, but not share them out, it is called a node. If the same computer is configured to also share files out, it is called a supernode. Because traffic between supernodes is encrypted, it is difficult for interested parties to discover who is using the Kaaza network and what files are being shared.
Network administrators tend to discourage the use of Kazaa, because in addition to Kazaa users taking up valuable network resources, several damaging viruses and worms have been distributed from within its interface.