We are now two days away from the launch of Mega, the file storage service that is the next big project from the controversial Kim Dotcom, founder of now-defunct media storage and streaming site Megaupload. Mega has today opened the site up to a limited number of users, and as we inch closer to the big event at Dotcom’s lavish New Zealand mansion (Kim preparing for it pictured here), Mega has trickled out details about the service to pique interest.
The latest is that Instra Corporation, the domain name registrar based in Australia and New Zealand, will be providing product, billing and technical support services to Mega users by way of a helpline, among other services, “in anticipation of dramatic new global demand for the Mega service.” That service, Dotcom has revealed, will give users 50 gigabytes of free storage, among other things.
Things will become clearer in a couple of days, but it appears that Mega is positioning itself as a cross between Dropbox and GoDaddy. That’s because, given Instra’s role as a domain registrar, Mega will also be providing services domain name registration, web and email hosting (similar to GoDaddy).
“Yes, Mega users will be able to register domain names through Instra,” said Brian Clarkson, CEO of Instra Corp, in an interview with TechCrunch. “Initially, this will be a 2 step process, but will be integrated as we develop.”
This is an interesting concept when you combine it with the other project that Mega Ltd is cooking up: the premium content streaming service called Megabox.
Megabox will be focused on music and Dotcom’s aim of putting co-called “dinosaur record labels” out of business — but, as a successor to Megaupload, it could potentially also cover video, too. In any case, the idea behind Megabox is that it will give artists a route to streaming music themselves — either supported by Megabox’s ad network, or by paid subscription. You can see how having a service, via Mega and its partner Instra, offering those artists their own hosted sites for the purpose makes sense.
The role being played by Instra here should not come as a surprise. Tony Lentino, the CEO of Mega Limited — the company behind Mega and (when it launches in a few months) the premium media service Megabox — is the founder and former CEO of Instra. And, it turns out, current CEO Clarkson is actually also an investor in Mega.
“Mega is owned by a number of investors based in New Zealand, Australia and Luxembourg,” Clarkson told TechCrunch in an email interview. “A small Australian company that I own is one of the investors.” Kim Dotcom himself does not own any of Mega. “Kim is an advisor to the business,” he said.
Clarkson did not reveal any financial terms of the deal since both Instra and Mega Ltd are “private companies and do not reveal sensitive financial information.” Nor would he provide much in the way of detail about Instra’s wider business as a clue to where Mega fits into the mix: “Instra provides customer and tech support for 6 domain name registration companies,” he noted. “I’m not at liberty to reveal their names for commercial-in-confidence reasons.”
The National Business Review of New Zealand notes that Instra has revenues of around 20 million New Zealand dollars annually, and that the company was “very profitable.”
One area where Clarkson was more outspoken was Instra’s position on Dotcom and the bigger opportunity for Mega.
Asked if Instra would ever cooperate with authorities if they requested closure of the site or any assistance in going after Dotcom (he has been a target for U.S. authorities for a while), Clarkson had this to say:
“Kim is innocent… This business has the right to offer a totally legal service unhindered by harassment from any authorities. We have received an enormous amount of legal advice about all aspects of the business and the relationship between Instra and Mega Limited. While Mega Limited will totally and rapidly co-operate with any requests from legitimate copyright holders to protect their IP, neither Mega nor Instra will co-operate with any organisation that attempts to frustrate the business of a highly innovative, totally legal service such as Mega is offering. This is the future of the Internet. We will do everything we can to protect innovation.”
That innovation “is all about security and usability,” he said. “The inclusion of an API is a big thing, too. We will attract a dev community to the platform.”
Clarkson has not yet answered my questions on what to expect next for Megabox, but the well-connected Torrentfreak reported at the end of December that Megabox was still a few months away from launching, partly because of legal issues with the U.S. government.
There are other things that Dotcom has said Mega is still trying to iron out, possibly ahead of a Megabox launch. He noted yesterday, via Twitter, that Mega is trying to work out a way of giving former Megaupload premium users a way of also becoming automatic free users on Mega. But, “Our lawyers say we can’t at this time. We’re working on it,” he wrote.
He also noted that Mega is working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to negotiate in the courts to get former Megaupload users access to their old files — which included premium content but also photographs, personal documents and more.
I know there are a lot of legal authorities and large companies that have a major bone of contention with Kim Dotcom. My opinion (and it’s just my own opinion and nothing else) is that I think it’s good to have people like Kim Dotcom and companies like Mega pushing against the boundaries in the tech world. You need people like this just as much as you need more above-board startups, Apple, Google and Facebook (and many others) to make the tech world go round.
Whether Mega’s supporters will be enough to push past all the hurdles — and whether Mega will actually have enough consumer interest to make a business out of this remains to be seen. “We are really pushing the boundaries, and we are pushing against some very big foes!” admitted Clarkson. “I guess that makes it all the more exciting and rewarding when we succeed.”
Main photo: Instagram/kim_dotcom