Created by 19-year-old Shawn Fanning in 1999, Napster is an application that gives individuals access to one another's MP3 files by creating a unique file-sharing system via the Internet.
Napster lets users view and download the contents of MP3 directories from other Napster users' hard drives. Type in the artist and/or song to receive a list, compiled by Napster's servers, of all the files currently available. Double click on a song to download from user's hard drive.
Because Napster searches individual hard drives, the number and variety of MP3 files vary. Not all Napster users are online at the same time; therefore, what you may not find one day, may, in fact, be there the next.
Macintosh faithful who want to benefit from Napster can download Macster, which works the exact same way as Napster. And, for all you open-source nuts, look into GNapster.
Napster has been under fire from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), who interprets Napster as copyright-infringement software. But, because the MP3 files do not reside on Napster's servers, nor does Napster charge a fee for the service, critics felt the RIAA had a weak legal leg to stand on. Napster simply allows individuals to share music, as does tape recorders and CD burners. However, in March of 2001, due to a court order, Napster blocked the trading of over 100,000 files of copyrighted songs. The court ruled that Napster's technology was an infringement on the copyrights of published music.
Many feel that Napster is revolutionizing the consumer music market, and it is up to the Music industry to adapt.