Happy Birthday, Napster

By  |  Monday, June 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm

NapsterIt was today in 1999 when a then-Northeastern University student Shawn Fanning changed the digital entertainment industry for good. The program he released was called Napster, and it made it stupidly easy to share just about anything. Within a matter of two years, the program went from relative obscurity to 15 million unique users monthly by its peak in February 2001.

I’m not going to sit here and act holier than thou: as a sophmore at Temple University in 2000, I was turned onto Napster by a fellow fraternity brother. Within a few days I was hooked — I had amassed quite the collection of music and videos. So were practically all my college friends with a computer.

Half the stuff I had was those old songs from my youth. Come on, I was like every other college student: I had no money (maybe I should have stopped spending my money on alcohol, but I do digress) and wasn’t about to go drop $15 just for one or two songs that I liked.

Napster made it really easy to solve that problem and at no cost. It’s popularity on some college campuses –including Temple — brought some networks to their knees as hundreds, if not thousands, of students were downloading simultaneously.

Almost immediately, the record industry jumped to action, suing Fanning and Napster in December 1999, although they were not successful in shutting down the network until July 2001.

From there, its assets would be fought over: Bertlesmann attempted to buy the company in 2002 for $85 million, although a judge would later block it. It would later be acquired by Roxio for use of its name for the pressplay service, and most recently was sold to Best Buy for $121 million in 2008.

The significance of Napster has not escaped even the current proprietors of the Na brand. In a post commemorating the anniversary, CEO Chris Gorog admits the industry is still trying to recapture the “excitement” of the original Napster.

Indeed the current service is trying to bring back “free” with its new offering that allows you to listen to an unlimited amount of music and offers five free MP3s on top of that. But you’re still paying $5 a month either way.

Chris may have used the anniversary to “pimp” his new offering as one commenter put it — but he is right about one thing. Without the original Napster, we’d be far behind where we are now. The service made the entertainment industry realize that consumers want more power, and the current state of digital entertainment — and a move back to DRM-free content — owes a lot to Mr. Fanning and that P2P software that swept the world one June day 10 years ago.


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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Backlin Says:

    Man, I feel old. I’m only 20 and I remembered sharing over Napster a time or two.

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    […] 10 Jahre Napster: Happy Birthday […]