Subscribe for premier reporting on free speech, privacy, Big Tech, media gatekeepers, and individual liberty online.

It’s been 20 years today since Napster started

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

Time either flies, stalls, or indeed, stings – it really does depend on the experience.

And in the case of Napster, and anyone around when this nowadays defunct, but forever (in)famous peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing service came to be – time must have first flown very fast, as it does when one’s having fun – to then drag on, as the fun came to a screeching, ugly end.

It might be hard to comprehend the significance of the service – and its subsequent downfall – if you happen to be younger than Napster itself – which is today 20 years old.

But before we go any further with the subject matter – could it also be time to redefine “internet years” the way “dog years” have long been defined in relation to the regular human experience. Has it really only been 20 years since Napster came to be? In fact – was it really only online for two years?

And maybe we should all take a moment to pause and recall where we all were on that day when Napster was first uploaded to the internet, June 1, 1999. (Then again – maybe we shouldn’t. I know I was in a bomb shelter – and I expect, many of our readers weren’t even born, or at least not caring at all about P2P tech back then.)

So let’s instead go back to the subject matter – Napster. The idea behind it was simple enough: harness the power of the emerging world power, the internet, to bring together millions of individual devices and people, to share files – say, music files.

The expansion of the idea was kind of exponential: three months in, four million songs where available. In under a year, 20 million internet users were sharing them.

The revolutionary idea spoke to people in a big way – the report said Napster had 26.4 million users worldwide by early 2001. But it also quickly came under the legal microscope of the recording industry, which eventually managed to shut it down, in all but in its name.

But back in its heyday, its worth noting that Dr. Dre said “Fuck Napster” – while Chuck D, of Public Enemy – famously described it as “the new radio”.

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

Read more

Join the pushback against online censorship, cancel culture, and surveillance.

Already a member? Login.