In the past fifty years a number of individuals wrote
software and developed databases to aid in the search for
Mersenne primes. In early 1996 George Woltman had the idea
of using the internet to coordinate this search and
developed GIMPS: the Great Internet
Mersenne Prime Search. He developed a
web site (above) which offers excellent free software,
allowing users on all platforms to join the search with
very little effort. GIMPS seeks new primes while also
seeking to factor the composite Mersennes and double (and
triple) check previous results.
In late 1997 Scott
Kurowski, founder of Entropia Inc., created PrimeNet allowing
GIMPS' programs to talk directly to a central database over
the Internet without human intervention. This greatly
expanded the number of people who could be involved, and
the rate at which the database could be updated.
Thanks to the work of Scott, George, and many others; GIMPS
includes over 100,000 people using ober 200,000 computers!
All of these folks deserve partial credit for each of
GIMPS has found five Mersenne primes, and equally
importantly (for mathematicians) has shown large regions to
be void of Mersenne primes.