The popularity of peer-to-peer multimedia file sharing applications such as Gnutella and Napster has created a flurry of recent research activity into peer-to-peer architectures. We believe that the proper evaluation of a peer-to-peer system must take into account the characteristics of the peers that choose to participate. Surprisingly, however, few of the peer-to-peer architectures currently being developed are evaluated with respect to such considerations. In this paper, we remedy this situation by performing a detailed measurement study of the two popular peer-to-peer file sharing systems, namely Napster and Gnutella. In particular, our measurement study seeks to precisely characterize the population of end-user hosts that participate in these two systems. This characterization includes the bottleneck bandwidths between these hosts and the Internet at large, IP-level latencies to send packets to these hosts, how often hosts connect and disconnect from the system, how many files hosts share and download, the degree of cooperation between the hosts, and several correlations between these characteristics. Our measurements show that there is significant heterogeneity and lack of cooperation across peers participating in these systems.