Napster first hit the scene in 1999, almost immediately setting off a firestorm of controversy and pitting- for the first time on a large scale- intellectual property owners against every day web users in a battle over what cannot and can be shared among friends on the internet.
In fact, it was kind of first with Napster we really started to look at what defines “friend,” and whether some dude in Norway who likes the same obscure metal bands as you could be conceivably construed as one. Napster also brought the idea of digital acquisition of music and other content into homes in that manner for the first time, as well as sparking off a debate about piracy, downloading and digital distribution that rages on today, twelve years later. Ultimately, while the share and share alike method of music distribution was largely quashed, Napster did pave the way for services like iTunes to allow consumers to cherry-pick the songs they wished to purchase instead of shelling out $20 for a whole CD of sucky songs for one or two tracks. (And kids today don’t even remember those days.)
The seminal service has slid into irrelevancy over the past decade, reorganizing and restructuring before a 2008 Best Buy buyout. Now Napster has finally breathed its last breath, having been folded into Rhapsody entirely and taking all its customers and data with it at the start of December. Although the brand has existed in some form throughout the past decade, the initial, free-wheeling days of open sharing had been long dead and its initial allure a mere memory. Are you old enough to have used Napster back in the day? Do you recall it fondly?