30 Jun 2009

Napster goes 10

Back in 1999, the Internet was just becoming popular among the Mauritian youth, especially at school. And the Internet was also the new Eldorado. Yahoo! was a leader, as well as Microsoft with MSN. And Google just made it's first appearance.

Then I discovered Napster from friends at Café National Super Cyber cybercafé. It was the program that every youth had to have if he/she were to be musically trendy. It was a very light peer-to-peer program, easy to download and install. It had very few buttons. And it was very simple to use.

I wanted to test-drive it. I wanted to download the song 'It's my life' by Doctor Alban, but ended up with that of Bon Jovi. And soon the latter became the killer song, and is still rated as such today. That song made the charts around the world, hitting 1st place.

My friends who were fans of hard-rock music used Napster to download tons of music of Metallica, Marilyn Manson and Nirvana. They used Napster to download some 5 Gigabytes of music at 128 kbps. Phew! What an astonishing amount. Undoubtedly, they did so at the cybercafé itself, enjoying some kind of broadband.

At home, I could download a song of merely 3 MB at 128 kbps over my 56.6 kbps dial-up connection in just over an hour and very often the songs were always downloaded at 90-99 percent and as a consequence I always 'missed' parts of songs. But still, I managed to download a few hundreds of megabytes of music at that speed. I always envied the Americans who had 128 kpbs ADSL, 512 ADSL and T1 connection lines at that time!

During that time, waiting for a song was of an immense pleasure. No need to buy pirated CDs. We were pirating directly from source! Metallica's, Madonna's and Britney Spears' songs were available for download weeks, even months, before official releases. To our happiness, both ears and pockets.

In around 2000, Metallica and Madonna filed lawsuits for copyright infringement and Napster was closed down to re-open later.

Today, Napster is still considered the first program to have shaken the music industry. Indeed, it has inspired many later applications like BitTorrent, iMesh, eDonkey, eMule, Morpheus and Kazaa, among others.

All other programs or protocols still pose the same 'threat' concerning copyright matters as Napster did. Or is it that the music industry has to re-invent itself and do business differently?

And even today, every mention of Napster makes the music industry tremble. Problems posed by Napster to the music industry are being spread to other media such as books and movies which are all being digitised, ready to download, with an ever-growing world population who's downloading more and more.

All in all, Napster has been revolution. And as with every revolution, there are good sides and not-so-happy consequences.

Happy birthday Napster!