With the future of Internet music-swapping in the air with the impending prohibition of Napster, Inc., few other services have shown enough promise to fill the online giant's shoes.
In retrospect, moves by the music industry to shut Napster down may have been premature for their own interests. They argued that the service infringes on copyrights by offering connected consumers 'broadband' access to free music.
And Napster's success - and later downfall - was due in large part to its simplicity.
The company made its software free to download, and its service free to use. Once connected, all a user has to do is search by artist or song, and a list of other Napster users comes back. Click on the user with whom you want to 'trade' and in a minute, the music is transferred from his hard drive to yours. The next step is to burn the MP3 files onto a compact disc, a relatively easy and inexpensive procedure.
After winning a lawsuit against Napster, the industry now has to deal with the reality that they are not providing an alternative.
This opens a door for other Napster replacements, such as Gnutella and MP3.com, to step to the plate and hit another ball over the industry's heads. The thought that Internet entrepreneurship can be put on hold while these lawsuits crawl through the court system is ludicrous.
Here are several of the companies that are trying to fill the gap left by Napster:
www.scour.com: Similar to Napster, scour is plagued with lawsuits from content creators like the motion picture association and the recording association.
Online you will find a large selection of everything from digital music, to music videos to movie clips. There is even content created specifically for computer downloads and Internet radio. The basic technology behind scour, is that it searches other Internet sites for the information you are looking for and delivers it through its service - simple and free.
www.gnutella.wego.com: This site seems like the most viable replacement for Napster should Napster fail in court appeals.
The difference is that Gnutella uses Napster-style file trading, but without the central server. Therefore, each trade between Gnutella's users is independent. Copyright be damned, the industry will have trouble chasing each and every infringer.
As a replacement to Napster, this site has even wider-encompassing problems when it comes to intellectual property. Users have the ability to use and trade everything digital. This includes software that can have a retail cost in the thousands. Expect Washington legislation limiting this technology. Also look at freenet.sourceforge.net., Gnutella's cousin.
www.cutemx.com: Like Napster, Cutemx works from a central server, allowing users to trade with each other. Unlike Napster, Cutemx has few users, most of whom are teens. The benefit is fast transactions of music between users. The drawback is that most of that music is of the Britney Spears/N' Sync genre. Also look at iMesh.com.
mp3.com: One of the first on the Web and one of the least user-friendly.
MP3 is a source for Internet downloadable music, and its controllers say they want to bridge the gap between the swappable files and the intellectual property activists, eventually through a subscriber-based service. But alas, even they are getting sued - and they're not even that good.
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