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Time: Meet the Napster

Sep 26, 2000, 12:31 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Karl Taro Greenfield)

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"And he believed in it because his idea was so simple: a program that would allow computer users to swap music files with one another directly, without going through a centralized file server or middleman. He'd heard all the complaints about how frustrating it was to try to find good music on the Net, how so many of the pointers on websites offering current (which is to say copyrighted) music seem to lead only to dead ends. But Fanning figured out that if he combined a music-search function with a file-sharing system and, to facilitate communication, instant messaging, he could bypass the rats' nest of legal and technical problems that kept great music from busting out all over the World Wide Web."

"All he had to do was combine the features of existing programs: the instant-messaging system of Internet Relay Chat, the file-sharing functions of Microsoft Windows and the advanced searching and filtering capabilities of various search engines. He reasoned that if he could write a program that included all those features, he'd have a pretty cool piece of software."

"But there was a huge leap of faith involved. Nearly everyone he mentioned the idea to believed it wasn't workable. 'It's a selfish world, and nobody wants to share,' snorted his older, more experienced buddies from the IRC chat rooms. Fanning, an inarticulate teenager at the time, couldn't adequately explain himself. He insisted that people would do it, because, like... just because."

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