Most Important Moments in Internet 1: Napster

Posted by The Phace [archives]

Internet Hall of Fame: Napster

Technology is changing life as we know it. If you’re a traditionalist, most likely your future will be filled with headaches and annoyances. Everything is changing. Yesterday, my brother complained about trying to track someone down because of a money debt that is owed to him. I simply fired up the XBOX 360 knowing for certain the person owing money would be playing his favorite first person shooter (Call of Duty, Black Ops). I invited him to a voice chat using the newly acquired XBOX Kinect, and he, under pseudonym ‘DROPITLIKEITSHOT86”, bellowed his greeting to me through his headset. To “Dropit’s” surprise, his debt collector was on the other end of the television speakers, licking his chops for a chance at his money.

Now whether or not my brother got his money is irrelevant, but the way this simple video gaming accessory helped my brother track down his nemesis was resoundingly intriguing to me and lead me to really think about the incredible advancements in technology that have graced us in just the past ten years; especially advancements in Internet. We have completely changed the way we do things on a day-to-day basis. So let’s take a look back. This five-part series will take us back to what I believe are the Internet’s greatest moments of the past decade and who I believe should be inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Napster

If you were a record industry exec back around the turn of the century, you most likely weren’t even allowed to utter the word Napster while at work. Though Napster’s reign was short lived, its impact on the music industry cannot be overemphasized. Currently, Napster is an online music store used via a subscription service for a fee. However, at the beginning of the millennium, Napster was a P2P (Peer to Peer) sharing service that allowed its users to share MP3s with other users free of charge. I’d like to give a nod to Shawn Fanning, Napster’s founder and creator.

We were sort of a big deal….

Fanning wanted to develop an easier way to search for music on the internet rather than using search engines. The software he developed could link it’s users to each other via a dedicated network, essentially allowing people to dig into the each other’s record crates, but on a massive scale. Users could have access to full libraries of music while bypassing retail and distribution channels.

Of course, the government quickly shut down Napster’s P2P service citing copyright violations, however the damage had already been done. In the two years of it’s existence, Napster spawned dozens of copycats that operated much more inconspicuously. Services like Morpheus and Limewire developed into forces to be reckoned with. Getting rid of the idea of central servers, these companies used various protocols that came into popularity around 2001. The effects were immense. Though more legitimate online music stores like iTunes and Rhapsody arose in the 00s, the brick and mortar stores had to close their doors. The Famous Tower Records had closed its U.S. branches in 2006 and Virgin Records Retail Stores were closed soon after in 2007. Two staples in the American Music Industry would vanish due Napster’s innovation. Napster destroyed the record industry’s former business model and the major labels are still struggling with how to make profits from records ten years after Napster.

Kids,... this was free

Of course I can’t just play one side of the fence. While record labels are clinging on to whatever else they can make money off of, other avenues in the music industry are flourishing. Artist and Indie labels now can get content directly to their fan base with out the use of distributors with services like iTunes and Amazon. Even major label artists such as Kanye West and Nicki Minaj use P2P sharing to release tracks to the public periodically.

So ten years later, the impact of Napster still holds strong. I truly believe Youtube, Mediafire, Rhapsody, iTunes, Netflix and even Twitter and Facebook owe an incredible debt to Napster. In the two years of it’s reign, it completely changed the way we think about how we get our media. Thank you Napster.

by The Phace

Posted on 17. Jan, 2011 by The Phace[archives]

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