Mac Flashback: Hotline Lives!
Do you remember Napster? Sure, most people over the age of 20 do. But how about Hotline? Once upon a time, in the wild west days of the ’90s internet, a secret and mostly Mac underground existed, predating Napster or Gnutella.
There were once thousands of Hotline servers across the planet, sharing files and media of every possible description — all the grit of UseNet, but even farther off the beaten path. Although the number of Hotline servers has dwindled to perhaps a dozen or so, the same anti-establishment theme still infuses the remaining faithful.
After talking with veteran Hotline users, you may notice that a sense of libertarian independence pervades the community. That’s a big part of Hotline’s remaining appeal. After all, Google will never be able to index servers that use the protocol, and server operators can easily erect layered security to keep access and private files among a circle of close friends. Many who still use Hotline take comfort in knowing that they are communicating on their own terms outside the purview of the Web and those who monitor it — Benj Edwards, Macworld (March 2013).
Hotline Communications (Wikipedia) passed into history back in 2001, but a hardy few hardcore admins soldier on, hosting servers for their friends.
Likewise, the number of Hotline Trackers has fallen off to a handful. The storied Tracker.Tracker is long gone, but the Hotline Tracker wiki lists most of the remaining active trackers.
Hotline: Still Serving
Hotline is a great place to track down abandonware software, especially PPC and Mac Classic apps and games. That said, as noted above, there is a certain attitude about the folks who inhabit Hotline and not everyone tolerates leachers — be prepared to share the wealth.