It was June 1, 1999 when an under-achieving student at Northeastern University named Shawn Fanning seeded a new program he’d written to some of his online IRC friends. He called it “Napster.” Even though the original Napster was sued out of existence, P2P file sharing was here to stay. The music world hasn’t been the same since.
We found Napster cool for a bunch of reasons:
- The labels had pretty much stopped issuing singles, forcing us to buy the entire CD for just the one song we wanted. Not anymore.
- Napster allowed us to find people with similar musical tastes who, by virtue of the other stuff the were sharing, showed us a new form of music discovery.
- We could now acquire more music than we could ever hope to afford.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Acquiring music this way wasn’t great.
- Song volumes were inconsistent.
- You didn’t always get the song you thought you were downloading. And you were never sure which version of a song you were getting.
- If you found a song that was properly tagged with metadata, it was a miracle.
- Downloading could take forever.
- Songs with low bitrates and bad audio quality.
Today if you’re stealing music, you’re wasting your time. In fact, you’re in an idiot. If you want to acquire and possess good-quality music files, there online stores that will sell them to you cheap. Better yet, sign up to a streaming music service and get all the music you could possibly want for free–or close to it. But neither of those options would exist today had it not been for Napster.
It’s amazing how far we’ve come in 15 years, isn’t it? Yet at the same time, it shouldn’t have taken this long.