What remains of Napster

Steve Henn Nov 30, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: Napster is going the way of eight-tracks and cassettes. The music file sharing service was bought by Rhapsody, and by tomorrow will be completely merged into it. It’s been more than a decade since an unknown college freshman rocked the music business with his idea of Napster.

Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports.

Steve Henn: Shawn Fanning created Napster in 1999. It allowed college kids — and quite a few grownups — to instantly share music online.

Max Dawson is a media professor at Northwestern University. He says Napster set a standard that streaming music businesses are still trying to match.

Max Dawson: The sort of ease of use, the instantaneous access, that sort of celestial jukebox ideal.

Dawson says Napster was ahead of its time. It created a peer-to-peer network that foreshadowed social media today.

Dawson: Marc Zuckerberg was still in Pampers. And Friendster hadn’t even debuted yet.

But the major record labels saw Napster as a tool for pirates. The industry sued and forced Napster to abandon its original business model.

The brand name lived on, but Napster never really recovered — and neither did the music business. Downloads didn’t stop. Eventually, Apple convinced the big labels to start selling songs online for 99 cents.

In Silicon Valley, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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