Seti@Home popularity explained

If more people are devoting their spare CPU cycles to the search for extra-terrestrial life than to cancer and Alzheimer's research, Germany may be to blame. At least, that's according to Wall Street Journal columnist Lee Gomes:
Without [the Germans'] dedication to science, Chris Benoit would never have started Seti.USA. And absent that, one of the computer world's least-known but most powerful monopolies might not still exist. Yes, it's true that even without the Seti@Home crowd bigfooting the world of distributed computing, we probably still would have incurable diseases and dangerous climate change. But we'd be a lot closer to solutions than we are now, don't you think?
Gomes' column explains that Seti@Home—Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence at Home—initially started off as an experiment by Berkeley Computer Scientist David P. Anderson to test his distributed computing implementation. However, the software's integrated scoring system quickly led German users to combine their computing efforts into a single team, allowing them to dominate the scoreboard. This move prompted U.S. users to create their own team in order to compete with Germany, causing rivalries to eventually escalate to the point where users became unwilling to move on to other distributed efforts. Due in part to these rivalries, Seti@Home is now on hundreds of thousands of systems worldwide—"far more than any other distributed-computing project," Gomes says.
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