deviantArt’s Angelo Sotira on the demise of Napster:
- While we all knew Napster was probably not going to be making a strong come-back, many of us wanted it to live on. Same with Audiogalaxy, Scour.Net and others centralized, fast, efficient and quality P2P networks that gave us a glimpse of the future and were snapped away without being given a chance. In the end, artists stuffer and no one else. This is by all means an extremely controvercial subject, but remember one thing before forming your opinion: With the Internet in existance, there is no way to prevent peer to peer networks, piracy and trading. What you can do is embrace, control and monetize the activity. The record industry had this opportunity with Napster. Napster was their advantage, their leverage over the space and their value is (was?) the ability to make it easier for consumers to download music, not harder. Instead they killed the kitty, setting us all back for who knows how many years to come.
The purpose of this contest is to pay hommage to Napster and to Shawn Fanning for his leadership and vision. To give thanks and love from our community to the folks who try so hard to make a difference with unique technologies, only to be stopped by the fear and ignorance of established industries fallibly incapable of adapting to the changing times. Create whatever you like to honor Napster and wish it Farewell! The contest ends in exactly two weeks from today on Wednesday, September 18th 2002.
….Do you ever wonder how all this music got on the Internet in the MP3 format to begin with? Because I know many of you have probably never even ripped a CD, you probably use a Napster-equivalent-but-not-as-good to download the files right off. When I was 14-15 I ran one of the largest MP3 groups in the world. Living my life virtually on efNet, I helped manage 300 kids who would rip, encode and upload music to FTP servers around the globe. I would secure the relationships with folks who had FTP sites and hard drive space, mostly on University connections that had lots of pipe and I would make sure plenty of people got the tunes. At the time, I had no idea these activities were illegal, and the RIAA wasn’t actively making it clear that they were. Dimension Music was started around this time and it acted as a front-end for all of this music. In effect it was one of the first Napsters. The first stage, the second being search engines like Scour, the third P2P apps like Napster. Dimension Music’s popularity was astounding; at it’s peak ( 1997 early 1998 ) it received over 200,000 unique visitors per day. I may continue that story another time, but the point is I started Dimension Music in late 1996. Cybertropix was started around mid-1998 if I remember correctly. The DMusic Network was formed in January 2000. A child of this Network was deviantART which took off in a way none of us expected.
The grass roots of MP3 were very much like those of online art today. In this community we have Brad Wardell over at Stardock, and David Gorman at DeskMOD, the folks at customize and skinz.org, Breed and iCE, ArtUproar, Wasted Youth, Bkaro, etc. In MP3, our brothers in the community were Justin Frankel, Tom Pepper, Steve Gedekian from WinAMP, Ian and Andrew from Sonique, (who we have the pleasure of working with on deviantART) the Outer Limits, the MP3Asylum, Layer3.org, python & jm2 of mp3site.com, Michael Merhej of Audiogalaxy.com, Travis Kalanick & Dan Rodriguez from Scour.Net, Shawn Fanning of Napster, and many more of course.
Today that community finds itself regressing as businesses have been forced to give up. A huge rise followed by a huge fall only in the sense of legitimacy, because piracy still runs rampant; more files are downloaded and more music is shared than ever before. Through all the lawsuits and all the effort on the part of the labels and the RIAA, their only accomplishment was to increase the rate of theft while decreasing their ability to control what is happening. To this day they fight the battle as if they wish it all to just go away. Instead of embracing consumers they fight them every step of the way, releasing wasteful and pathetic solutions to address problems they’ve had ample opportunity to solve.
Shawn Fanning is Napster, literally. Napster was Shawns nickname on IRC (eFNet), and on IRC there were fServs (bots that serve the purpose of distributing any type of file) that would store between 10-20 tracks of music. Usually they would hold the latest album by some artist, and you could easily and efficiently download the tracks. This was much better than using search engines, because search engines were filled with outdated and broken links. With an fServ, if you got a connection you got the file. It was very natural at that time to wish for a way to search. “man, what if we could just search all the fServ’s for a file instead of asking each fserv which files it has?” we’d often discuss. I’m an extremely proactive guy, so it still boggles my mind that I wasn’t on top of this – but I didn’t know how to program and I had my hands full with Dimension Music, so I guess that’s my excuse. Justin Frankel saw this as well but he had his hands full with WinAMP. Soon after Napster, Justin released the Gnutella Protocol and a beta version of an app that used it. Gnutella wasn’t inspired by Napster, is what most people don’t know. See, Napster was what I call P2S2P. Peer 2 Server 2 Peer. It wasn’t true peer to peer, but that’s because P2S2P works better anyway (it’s faster). Trouble is, if you shut down the servers, the peers can’t talk to each other anymore. Because Gnutella is true P2P, there’s no way to turn it off unless you turn off all the peers. Peers in this instance are your computers, the RIAA would have to turn off your computers in order for the Gnutella Network to die. Assuming of course you have a gnutella client installed.
….In conclusion, Napster is dead today because of fear and ignorance. Napster’s official death was yesterday, September 3nd, 2002. The site reads: Napster WAS HERE. DED KITTY But it’s spirit lives on, file sharing is here to stay and we will always remember Napster for it’s contributions. So do you see the irony? The only people who got screwed here were the artists. The labels kept their monopoly and leverage over artists. And the average shmo can still download plenty of tunes without compensating artists. So who can you blame? You can’t blame Shawn Fanning for being an effective entrepreneur, in touch with the needs of his generation. If he didn’t create Napster, ten others would have as I explained above. You can’t blame artists for creating great music people want. You can’t blame people for not paying for something when you don’t give them an opportunity to pay for it. So who can you blame? Who didn’t do their job of adapting to the needs of consumers? Who then, is effectively stealing money out of the pockets of musicians and song-writers?
Get to it, arty types.