Nice overview of Napster history - did it really happen? - in LA Times excerpt from new book All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning's Napster by Joseph Menn:
- It all began with a poor Boston-area kid who came west to Silicon Valley and started a revolution.
Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker packed their bags for California in September 1999 because Napster's first equity investor, Yosi Amram of Palo Alto, wanted to keep an eye on the company. Parker took what he could carry from Virginia and went to the airport. Fanning was to fly the same day from Boston, but he misplaced his driver's license and couldn't make the flight.
When Parker arrived at the San Francisco airport and discovered his partner wasn't there, he realized he was alone in a city where he had no friends, no support network and no place to stay. Fanning arrived a day or so later, exhausted. "I was in really bad shape, just from programming for eight months," he said. "I was going to a strange place. I didn't get a sense of what I was getting into or really much of an understanding for what it meant to start a company or raise money or any of those things."
They were relying on the experienced adults in the company, such as Napster CEO Eileen Richardson. But Richardson hadn't done enough homework. She said that her first question to Amram before she signed on had been about copyright law. Anything as powerful as Napster, which took away so much music without paying any money to the labels, had to be illegal, she worried. Amram assured her it wasn't, and he told her about a lawsuit-defense memo that had been prepared for the company. That was enough to convince her. She was foolish for not doing at least a modicum of due diligence and speaking to a lawyer. But she thought people would just use Napster to sample music, then purchase what they liked. CD burners were rare at the time--they would soar in popularity later, precisely because of Napster.
Richardson decided to move fast to raise more money. After word about Napster had leaked out in June 1999, 100,000 users had downloaded a test version. When college students returned for the fall term, Napster had the potential to turn into the ultimate case of viral marketing, with word of mouth spreading it faster than any advertising could. But the usage was already straining Napster's capacity, and the system kept crashing. If the positive buzz was replaced by griping about the crashes, Napster could die before its first official release.
Amazing story - included in the excerpt are bios of the key players:
- Shawn Fanning