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Sad but true: Napster '99 still smokes Spotify 2012 (theregister.co.uk)
203 points by borism 846 days ago | comments


Aloisius 846 days ago | link

It is really hard to compare Napster and Spotify as they are entirely different beasts. Let me just say that I built the Napster server, so I'm biased. I have also been a Spotify user for several years.

For me, Spotify is a sub par experience because I don't know what I want and I have different music tastes than my friends. The only thing that makes Spotify useful for me is sites like http://sharemyplaylists.com/. I imagine for people who know exactly what they want and just treat it like a giant jukebox, it is a fantastic service. I am not one of those people.

Napster for me, was about finding people as much as music. I was part of a community of people that were super stoked to talk about some new indie band. I would search, notice who had music I was looking for, send them a message and start talking.

I met a lot of people in real life through Napster often at shows. I know others did as well since we received thank you letters and in a couple cases, wedding announcements.

I think the community with its passion for music was what made Napster great, not the massive catalog. All I had to do was enter one of many indie channels and read for half a minute before I had three new things to listen to and a bunch of people to talk to them about.

Not to discount the catalog, I will say that the catalog at Napster will possibly never be duplicated. There were a lot of back catalog works, a lot of pre-release works and a ton of bootlegs. Sure, the quality was sometimes poor, but then I used Napster as a tasting service and then, you know, bought the originals when I could.

My hope is Spotify continues to improve and eventually becomes more community oriented or something else comes along and re-ignites the flame. Music is one of those things that is central to a lot of people's lives and you couldn't ask for a more passionate userbase.

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Mizza 846 days ago | link

Woah, you wrote the server for Napster?! That's awesome!

Can you talk about that a bit? What was the underlying algorithm, what was the stack and how much data were you pushing at your max?

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Aloisius 846 days ago | link

Which underlying algorithm?

The search engine was built on a ternary tree with a custom merging algorithm. I honestly don't know if the merging algorithm has a name as it was something I came up with (literally) while sleeping one night. Because we mostly used ID3 tags and file names, it was completely unnecessary to use a stemming algorithm because if you typed in a misspelled search, given the size of our index, there was probably someone who tagged their file using the same misspelling.

The network biasing code used BGP data combined from a number of looking glass servers to build a map of ip/prefix -> ASN number and ASN->ASN distances. It was then used to reorder search results based on network distance to users so they would bias towards their own networks and save ISPs money and speed transfers on broadband connections.

Servers were linked through a fully meshed network. Each had presence information about every user on the network so that they could route IMs around. The chat system was semi-linked (fully linked on some servers, but we couldn't fully link the whole thing because the client had no administrative functions for chat). If we couldn't send the user back enough results for a search, the query was simply passed around the backend.

The whole thing was written in C++. At its peak, there were about 2.3 million users online at any given time (80 million total users growing by a million every 4 days). The system would be indexing about 17.6 million files per second (and de-indexing about the same amount). The whole system pushed out about 2 Gbps of bandwidth in search results (which were tiny).

Napster was one of the very first services to push past 10K connections on a Linux machine. At peak, I could get over 100K users on a single process (though I'd run out of memory indexing files on the tiny 2 GB machines and blow out the NIC sending search results). During normal operations, each server process had around 40K users on it and between 7-12 million files indexed.

There were a bunch of side infrastructure things no one saw. Court mandated copyright filtering systems, recommender systems (most for play), load balancing servers, bot detection and sequestration systems, analytics reporting jobs, etc.

Nowadays, I could probably fit all of Napster on one big machine. Heh.

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Mizza 846 days ago | link

Wow, that's incredibly fascinating! Thanks for posting such a great reply! You built something that really changed the world, in my opinion, and you should be very proud.

I'm particularly pleased by the use of ASN/distancing weights in your results! None of the BT trackers I've hacked around on have had anything like that in them.

Where is the code now? It should be in a museum.

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Aloisius 846 days ago | link

No problem! It occurred to me that I've never really talked about the Napster architecture or algorithms publicly.

I once hacked up Transmission to re-prioritize based on network distance. It worked rather well when it discovered over the DHT. It is a lot easier when you only have to calculate distance between you and other networks. Storing the graph of distances between two arbitrary users is harder.

The code was part of the assets that were bought out of bankruptcy by Roxio (who renamed themselves Napster). I doubt it is being used for anything.

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tuna 846 days ago | link

you should definitely publish this kind of things somewhere. it was big way before the whole big data stuff around.

cheers.

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prawn 846 days ago | link

Loved this:

"...it was completely unnecessary to use a stemming algorithm because if you typed in a misspelled search, given the size of our index, there was probably someone who tagged their file using the same misspelling."

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swang 846 days ago | link

What was your irc name?

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Aloisius 846 days ago | link

Wow, I haven't been on IRC in a decade. It would have been Jordy. Back then I was an IRC Oper on EFNet and ran the ednet server at my ISP where Fanning, Parker and most of the first employees of Napster first met.

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urbanjunkie 846 days ago | link

Have you not used any of the Spotify Apps (e.g. MoodAgent, Last.fm, and, of course, sharemyplaylist)? If not, then I highly recommend you do - be interesting to see if the experience changes your opinion.

Seems to me that the Spotify API opens up all sorts of possibilities for music discovery.

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Aloisius 846 days ago | link

I've been using last.fm since it was audioscrobbler. I wrote one of the mac scrobblers years ago to upload my iPod plays. While it is fun to track my analytics, its user recommender is poor at best and the radio, I don't know, it just doesn't match my taste. I use it all the time to find popular songs by artists I've just discovered though. Great for evaluation.

Sharemyplaylist.com is basically what makes Spotify useful for me at all. I still can't talk to anyone, but at least I can have a playlist that sounds roughly like the songs belong together. I'll rarely discover new music on it.

For music discovery, I find http://hypem.com and mp3 blogs to be far more useful. Still no strong community, but at least I actually discover new interesting things.

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EwanG 846 days ago | link

I'd say thanks for introducing me to hypem.com (odd that with a name like that I'd never heard of it before), but that would be like thanking someone for introducing me to tvtropes.org. I, and the unfortunate folks who follow me on twitter and just got a sampling of South By musicians, will have to find a way to "thank" you :-)

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brianwhitman 846 days ago | link

I disagree with this -- i was a very heavy Napster user in 99 and am a very heavy Spotify user (and, NB, they are a customer) today. Obviously it's a fun angle for a SXSW talk, but:

- The "depth of catalog" is actually incorrect -- Spotify has far far more songs than Napster did (you can see in that screenshot even, most logins/servers hit less than 1m songs totally available, and of course those are just total indexed, in reality almost 50% of downloads would not be available.) Yes, you could find niche stuff on Napster-- as a musician in 1999 I would make sure all my stuff was available, pre-release, demos, etc. But we have Soundcloud for that now, so...

- The discovery on Napster was non-existent. You could browse through a users' collection, the same way you can browse through playlists today. But the only entry into anything was a search box that only looked at ID3v1 data and filenames. There's been amazing leaps and bounds in discovery since then, and it's very clear by the #s that it's what people wanted -- a guided (radio, playlist) experience over a wild west single song retrieval thing.

- Napster was stupid bad at search. There obviously was no catalog resolution and the quality of the results was abysmal. I am pretty sure it was a substring match, for one, and then there was the bad metadata, fake songs, later on a huge spam / "SEO" problem.

- Not going to get into speed, because it wasn't Napster's fault, but even back then it was far easier to get music elsewhere other than Napster if possible. Ratio FTP sites, hotline, and of course bubblecruft startups building customer bases by selling new CDs for $4. It was very clear at the time even that the distributed nature of Napster was a liability, not a promise, as all the single-server solutions were far more convenient and reliable. But this was not their fault and of course their success inspired everything after it.

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Aloisius 846 days ago | link

- most logins/servers hit less than 1m songs totally available

The backend servers were linked. If your request couldn't be fulfilled on one, your search was forwarded to the next server. The total number of files on Napster at its peek was over half a billion files. Further, that picture must have been from a server that just started because the average server had significantly more users/files on it.

Further, Napster users were ripping everything in sight. There were mp3 encodings of old wax cylinders uploaded for goodness sakes.

- The discovery on Napster was non-existent. You could browse through a users' collection, the same way you can browse through playlists today.

There was an entire curated music website dedicated to music discovery that loaded into the client.

The chat and instant message system allowed people to talk about music which created a massive music-focused community. It was wildly popular.

And don't underestimate browsing. People would search for the one song they were interested in, notice who they were downloading from, browse the other user and then start pulling down their music if they noticed several songs they liked in it. They then could send a message to that user and add them to a friend's list. That was not just music discovery, but friend discovery as well.

- I am pretty sure it was a substring match

The very first versions were substring match when there were maybe 10,000 users. Later version were not and allowed basic boolean queries like term exclusion.

- Not going to get into speed, because it wasn't Napster's fault, but even back then it was far easier to get music elsewhere other than Napster if possible

There was an algorithm on Napster that did network distance biasing. Basically, if you were an AOL user, you'd first get AOL users back when doing a search. If you were an Internet 2 or even @Home user however, your speeds were epic.

* Note: I built and ran the Napster server.

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palish 846 days ago | link

Note: I built and ran the Napster server.

I just want to say: thank you for building one of the most important inventions of our time. (Napster kickstarted the information sharing revolution.)

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corford 846 days ago | link

Usenet might wish to contest that claim :)

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Splines 846 days ago | link

BBS's also functioned in a similar way before Usenet did.

That said, Napster made it all really easy. They also came along when CD drives were finally commonplace, and Winamp had seeded the ground by having people build up a library of MP3s beforehand.

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corford 845 days ago | link

I don't know, I remember Napster as being quite late to the party. Everyone I knew (geeks and some non geeks) had been happily using ratio FTPs for years (using usenet and irc to find them) and then later Audiogalaxy took care of the discovery problem. I also remember CD drives being fairly common by 1996/7 (it was CD burners that took a few years longer to hit sensible price points).

But its been a while so maybe my rose tinted glasses have munged things a bit! :)

And you're right, BBSes were doing similar things first (although I assume good ones were harder to find than usenet groups or irc chans - don't know because BBSes were before my time!) but of course the mp3 standard didn't exist back when they were at their zenith. MP3s only started appearing en-mass around 1997 I think (??). Before that, I remember every one used to share tiny wav and midi sound file clips on their homepages (my first ever homepage was made to share wav clips of simpsons and monty python dialogue - lol how embarassingly quaint!)

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Splines 845 days ago | link

You know, you're probably right, I think I'm off about 2 years.

Yeah, in my BBS days I remember downloading MOD files and demo videos. I still remember being blown away by Future Crew.

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methoddk 846 days ago | link

I agree with this 100%. A lot of the music I still listen to today was discovered because of those chat rooms on Napster.

I miss it.

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maukdaddy 846 days ago | link

Oh wow hotline, that brings back some memories.

On a university network Napster was quite fast. I could routinely saturate my (for that time speedy) 10mbit connection, especially to other clients on Internet2.

One other point to your argument is social. The ability to see what friends are listening to and create sharable playlists is obviously something that Napster did not provide.

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link2009 846 days ago | link

You had Internet2 in '99?

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maukdaddy 846 days ago | link

Yeah via Abilene: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_Network

.edu to .edu transfer was unbelievably fast back in those days.

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benmccann 846 days ago | link

I was curious, so from Wikipedia: The Internet2 Project was originally established by 34 university researchers in 1996 under the auspices of EDUCOM (later EDUCAUSE), and was formally organized as the not-for-profit University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID) in 1997.

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FreakLegion 846 days ago | link

You may be a heavy user where "heavy" equals "frequent," but I don't think you're a heavy user where "heavy" equals "eclectic"[1]. Otherwise you'd have experienced firsthand just how useless Spotify is for music outside the mainstream, even (in contrast to what Aloisius said) when you already know exactly what you're looking for. In just the last few days there've been at least half a dozen[2] times when I wanted to listen to something and Spotify didn't have it. Napster never had this problem.

[1] Although I hate that word.

[2] Daughter - His Young Heart, Japandroids B-sides from the Post-Nothing sessions (Younger Us, Art Czars, and Heavenward Grand Prix), anything from Mirel Wagner or 9mm Parabellum Bullet, anything from The Lonely Forest's first three releases, Gotye - Like Drawing Blood (which is so much better than the album that finally made him famous), etc. Spotify is seriously lacking in terms of selection.

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InclinedPlane 845 days ago | link

The one thing that file sharing sites excel at is finding niche materials by certain artists, such as b-sides and live shows or covers. Some of that stuff is quite excellent but almost impossible to find in a music store or on a music site.

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eli 845 days ago | link

Some of that stuff has probably never been released by a real label. I imagine it would be tricky just to figure out who even owns the rights, let alone secure them for digital distribution.

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icehawk 846 days ago | link

- The "depth of catalog" is actually incorrect -- Spotify has far far more songs than Napster did (you can see in that screenshot even, most logins/servers hit less than 1m songs totally available, and of course those are just total indexed, in reality almost 50% of downloads would not be available.) Yes, you could find niche stuff on Napster-- as a musician in 1999 I would make sure all my stuff was available, pre-release, demos, etc. But we have Soundcloud for that now, so...

The numbers depend on when one took the screenshot. Here's part of one I took on 02/02/2001 23:32PM CST with more than a million files available:

https://1e400.net/i/BP6LdMPm/napster.png

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joejohnson 846 days ago | link

You are correct, I believe Spotify is much better than Napster was in 1999. But there are still huge flaws with Spotify. It's collection is often missing songs due to licensing issues. I'm tired of seeing songs greyed-out because they are "unavailable" where I live. Spotify's search leaves much to be desired (Napster's wasn't amazing either, however).

But I think the essence of what Sean Parker was saying was that there are still many hurdles that a legal system like Spotify will have to overcome. If you really want everything without restrictions, pirating is still a better option.

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xpose2000 846 days ago | link

Napster was cool because it had live music and bootlegs that are often times very tough to find. A lot of napster was sifting through crap songs to find the good versions.

Spotify and the others are cool because you can stream stuff while on your phone. And getting to the music you want to hear was more seamless and straightfoward.

So in summary, almost, but not quite.

Napster was also one of the first geek-tools to really hit mainstream, and boy was that weird.

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dasil003 846 days ago | link

You really nailed it with this comment. Napster is from another era when the thrill of discovery was much greater than it is now. Objectively maybe Napster isn't as great as all the nostalgia would have us believe. Maybe there are actually more songs on Spotify (probably not, but humor me). The thing is, back then, if you searched and didn't find today, it didn't mean you wouldn't find tomorrow. You never knew when you would find a gold mine of a collection that not only had what you were looking for but actually schooled you on a bunch of new stuff.

Napster was a magical moment where the underground went mainstream for a split second before being snuffed out. Of course these type of (smaller) communities still exist online, and music fans are better off than they ever were, but Napster embodied a sea change that could only happen once.

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icebraining 846 days ago | link

But the "evil" aspect of Napster wasn't that it was P2P: it was that it didn't return any money to the creators.

No, it's because it forfeited the control the labels had over the music. They've showed again and again that they don't mind losing money to maintain that control.

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psychotik 846 days ago | link

P2P is just technology. Making it work so that the right people are compensated is hard. My startup is trying - http://www.gigaom.com/2012/03/05/audiogalaxy-personalized-p2.... This just launched a week or so ago - give it a shot!

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icebraining 846 days ago | link

Thanks for the suggestion and I hope you'll succeed, but frankly I can't; assuming you're giving a cut of your income to the big labels, I'd be contributing to companies that actively lobby to destroy things I hold dear.

Nowadays I only buy music that I'm reasonably sure it won't feed the RIAA.

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tomjen3 846 days ago | link

But they have already lost that power and are never going to get it back again.

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icebraining 846 days ago | link

SOPA proves they don't agree with you, unfortunately.

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ktizo 846 days ago | link

It doesn't really matter in the long run what they choose to believe, given that it is essentially just a game of coders vs lawyers that is being played out on a global computer network.

All SOPA did was underline yet again how little they understand the actual technology involved.

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rmc 846 days ago | link

It's interesting that it's more than a decade since Napster, and the music industry hasn't gone bust yet. It's almost like P2P cannot destroy the main music industry.

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phreanix 846 days ago | link

I think in retrospect, it destroyed the music industry model, the music industry just doesn't know it yet.

I'm saving this whole thread re-reading it over and over again, thanks to Aloisius chiming in (giving a valuable and rare peek at the back-end), and the insight into what drives music discovery.

I do credit Napster for awakening a love for music. My father had a deep record collection from the 60's, and he had mentioned some very hard to find items he's wanted for decades that I found on Napster in couple of hours of searching. This was what made it awesome for me. The ability to browse someone else's collection was an incredibly effective music discovery system, and introduced me to music I'd never have discovered on my own.

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meatsock 846 days ago | link

no but the music industry can destroy the music industry, and they're doing a bang-up job of it. maybe a different way to think of it is: it's been more than a decade since napster and the music industry is just now beginning to get a clue.

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Samuel_Michon 846 days ago | link

The iTunes Music Store has been around since 2003. It has been three years since all DRM has been removed and files are 256kbit/s AAC.

Granted, this happened despite the music industry's efforts, it took a lot of pressure from Apple to get there. But still, I very much prefer the current situation over when Napster reigned. (Does noone remember the amount of garbage on Napster? The malware, the fake files, the low quality files? Not to speak of the terrible speeds -- many peers were still on dial-up...)

With iTunes, you can find new music easily, download high quality files, and get the album art and liner notes. Downloading and purchasing is fast and safe. You get to pay a fair price and know that the rights holders are being compensated.

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Aloisius 846 days ago | link

Actually, SNOCAP started selling DRM-free music on MySpace exclusively back before DRM-free music was a glimmer in Apple's eye. We were mostly doing indie music when we had all the major labels come to us and ask how they could sell music on MySpace and eventually negotiated deals for it to all be DRM-free.

After that, it was relatively easy for Apple to go DRM-free (though oddly, they still refused to do it for some time after).

* Note: Shawn Fanning and I founded SNOCAP after Napster blew up.

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TazeTSchnitzel 846 days ago | link

Who'd have thought it?

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nitrogen 846 days ago | link

For me the coolest thing about Napster was all the remixes people were making. You could search for "[anything] remix" (e.g. Tetris remix, Nintendo remix, Sesame Street remix, ...) and find something awesome that would never see the light of day in a label. Some of those remixes bled through into the later P2P systems.

Napster was one of the first services to give the mainstream world a glimpse at the digital information utopia made possible by the Internet. The paternalistic distribution systems we have now are a mere shadow of what could be without the strangling influence of the media industry.

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ljf 846 days ago | link

they were excellent! but the remixes are still around (and new ones being made), they've just moved to YouTube now.

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nhangen 846 days ago | link

The fatal flaw of Spotify, Rdio, and even Last.fm is that finding good music is just too much work. Too much social and too many clicks.

I wish Pandora could buy one of these services and combine their discovery engine with the catalogues of the subscription services.

Until then, I think I'll just keep buying music.

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psychotik 846 days ago | link

Hey, if you like discovery try Audiogalaxy Mixes - we just launched it a week or so ago [1]. We think it's better than Pandora (much larger catalog, smarter algos, more input types) - tell me if it's not. It's free on the web (no ads) with a free trial on mobile, after which we charge a small fee to cover licensing costs. If you email viraj@audiogalaxy.com with your account I'll comp you a free month. I'd love to know what you think.

Here's a Mix I've made, for example: http://www.audiogalaxy.com/mix/87-Guitar%20Gods/?

[1]http://www.geekwire.com/2012/audiogalaxy-music-service-rebor...

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andybak 846 days ago | link

Ahhhh. Audiogalaxy. That brings back memories.

It was amazing back in it's (less legitimate) days. It took over from Napster but improved on it in many ways.

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psychotik 846 days ago | link

It's evolved and we're trying to re-create some of the same magic, with the same team. First step: http://gigaom.com/2012/03/05/audiogalaxy-personalized-p2p-ra...

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joering2 846 days ago | link

+1. Exactly the same feeling. There was lots of high quality 320k songs and albums there one couldnt find anywhere else... not that I ever used it, of course :)

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lobster_johnson 846 days ago | link

Hm. Just tried to follow your link (on my iPad). I get a page inviting me to install an app, so I do. After creating an account, the app is basically empty, telling me I have to share some music on my computer. Weird, but ok, so I come back here and try your link again, and I still get the same page asking me to install your app. Is this how it's supposed to work?

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psychotik 846 days ago | link

Are you in the US? Mixes are US only at this time. Non-US users can still use the personal music streaming service though. You install a tiny piece of software on your home machine and then can access all your music everywhere for free.

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lobster_johnson 846 days ago | link

I'm in Europe. I got redirected here (http://www.audiogalaxy.com/mobileRedir), which did not say anything about it being US-only.

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Inufu 846 days ago | link

Audiogalaxy looks really good, but I can't find a radio mode. (like last.fm, where you enter a tag / artist and it plays similiar songs) Is there such a thing?

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psychotik 846 days ago | link

Yes, but it's US only at this time. Non-US users can still use the personal music streaming service though.

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Reebz 846 days ago | link

I can't agree more.

I love Pandora for the guidance.

WAH is available on Spotify, which is good (I used them before Spotify), but it's very niche indie discovery.

I can't select a Temptations song and expect to be then offered up a Clarence Carter or Tower of Power hit.

Only Pandora has those "skillz".

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mds101 846 days ago | link

So just because Napster had built in chat and a wider illegal catalogue it becomes better than Spotify eh? Also, why would I want to know the personality of some ramdom guy on the other side of my p2p connection? This is mostly a fluff piece with absolutely nothing new or interesting being said.

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jchrisa 846 days ago | link

I thought browsing other folks libraries was pretty cool. As an artist, I'd look myself up, and see what else those people listened to. Pretty neat and I've yet to come across anything similar. I haven't had to the time to investigate the other p2p music platforms since then, so probably others have that feature...

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_delirium 846 days ago | link

I like that aspect of Soulseek. When someone shows up in the search results for some obscure track, you can see what else they listen to. The browsing interface also keeps their music organization, so it can be a pretty interesting way to browse if you run across a collector-type person with an organized-into-genre filesystem. You can also chat with them, and there are in addition IRC-style chat rooms for various genres and interests.

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kreate 846 days ago | link

yes, soulseek was created by a former napster developer. it is very similar to napster.

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beaumartinez 846 days ago | link

I use Last.fm for that purpose. Check artist you like, find someone who gave them a shout, evaluate their music profile, optionally "friend" them, listen to their music.

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gebe 846 days ago | link

I didn't understand that point completely from the article though. Spotify lets you look at what other users listen to and their playlists (if they haven chosen to show them to the public) and I can subscribe to those playlist as well. The thing I guess they talk about is that you can't see who listens to a specific artist, you won't be able to get a huge list of usernames that listen to a certain artist. I guess they keep those goodies for themselves ;)

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mds101 846 days ago | link

I too appreciate being able to browse other people's collections. I was only ranting at the way the author chose to write that ('Insight into somebodies personality').

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Malcx 846 days ago | link

I think the point is that from an end user experience Napster had advantages and features that haven't been replicated or bettered since.

Yes that's ignoring the legality of it, but ultimately we repeatedly see that users will ignore legal issues in favour of convenience.

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icebraining 846 days ago | link

From a user POV, a wider catalog is obviously better. That doesn't mean that Spotify (the company) should start distributing unlicensed files, nor does the article say that.

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mds101 846 days ago | link

Yes, you are correct. I guess what I was trying to say was that there is no way to make a fair comparison between Napster and Spotify - it's not even an apples to oranges comparison.

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icebraining 846 days ago | link

Of course it is. It just isn't possible to determine the quality of the companies/developers from that comparison, since you have to account for external factors. But you can still show that those external factors prevent Spotify from becoming better than Napster.

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mikodoko 846 days ago | link

Yes. Integrated chat, significantly wider catalogue, abilty to browse other people file and to own the file makes napsyer way better than spotify. And I really dislike napster, it introduced beyond par quality, incomplete and mislabled files and fakes. oth.net and audiogalaxy were far superior.

Though, I'm not blaming spotify here, they have little choice but to operate inside a set of imposed constraints. The big labels and the industry are to blame, it's the same old story they manage to derive tons of money from being in control of the distribution, they're not gonna give it up without a fight. Even though it is a fight they cannot win, they will mindlessly fight it till the end, and those who pay for this are the artists and the users.

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Hyena 846 days ago | link

The irony being that Spotify has a social strategy.

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comex 846 days ago | link

> What a pity the large labels a decade ago didn't appreciate that Napster was a social network – just one built around music. Who knows, today it might be as big as you-know-who.

Ping?

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ecocentrik 846 days ago | link

I like Spotify and find it infinitely more useful for music discovery than Napster ever was. Sure it would be nice if they had a more comprehensive catalog but finding complete high quality recordings on Napster was always impossible. I dug around for weeks trying to complete an album at a decent bitrate. By comparison Spotify has figured out how to serve complete high quality music legally at a very reasonable price.

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invisible 846 days ago | link

Absolutely a fluff piece. No mention of any other legal services that offer exactly what the author is writing about (namely Grooveshark).

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thematt 846 days ago | link

Grooveshark's legality is questionable at best.

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invisible 845 days ago | link

Legality is following the letter of the law (e.g. DMCA), to which Grooveshark does and exceeds. Being praised and loved by all labels is what Spotify is doing (by paying out the ass in investor money).

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gaoshan 846 days ago | link

I find more awesome music, quicker, with Spotify than I ever did with any other music tool. I especially like the apps for this: Pitchfork, Guardian, RollingStone, etc. This combined with checking out what my "friends" are listening to really is a great way to find good stuff.

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cantbecool 846 days ago | link

The author didn't even clearly state how Napster '99 smokes Spotify. The only feature that I thought he stated was that Napster had a form of chat and how it could have potentially evolved into a social network.

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jwblackwell 846 days ago | link

I think it's a little unfair to make a comparison to something that is essentially illegal against something that is not. I know Spotify has it's flaws both in its business model and catalog but as someone who has used virtually every illegal filesharing method going in the past and has now been converted to Spotify I think they should be given a little more credit.

It's not the fault of Spotify that the collection is limited. At least they are trying to move the music industry into the future - whether it will work or not who knows but I'm sure we will all look back in hindsight and see Spotify as the pioneer of whatever comes.

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icebraining 846 days ago | link

I think you're reading too much into it. The article just gives you a fact - Napster was in many ways better than Spotify is now. It doesn't blame the Spotify devs for it.

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bitterfounder0 846 days ago | link

My college used DC++ to internally share music, movies, tv shows, and porn. You could browse someones entire media collection. It gave you an overall sense for their taste in music and was a great way to find new bands. Reading about Napster reminded me how much I miss this feature.

The article glosses over how slow Napster '99 was. I remember waiting a couple hours to download an album. Fast downloads are more important than social features. I do not miss Napster.

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e03179 846 days ago | link

RE: slow downloads thru Napster

Of course, high speed internet is much more prevalent now in 2012 than it was in '99. Downloading an album in '99 sometimes meant you were downloading from PC's with only a 56k modem for connectivity.

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bitterfounder0 846 days ago | link

Good point. It's not fair to associate Napster with slow download speeds. I would have loved to see how Napster evolved with broadband. Tragic they were shutdown.

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tjoff 846 days ago | link

In countries such as Sweden that was already the case. I never downloaded anything on napster in 56k-speed unless I was really desperate. Broadband was common enough that limiting yourself to high-speed downloads didn't limit the supply, which was kind of obvious considering that those with broadband typically had many orders of magnitude larger libraries :p

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rmc 846 days ago | link

To be fair, this was the age of dial-up, not broadband.

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keypusher 846 days ago | link

I disagree. 97-99 were the years of massive broadband cable rollout to suburban America. This was the time that broadband arrived, and you see it reflected in the software of that era particularly video games for example Quake, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Ultima Online, Everquest. It was the boom of real time multiplayer, which required a broadband connection.

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Drbble 846 days ago | link

It was broadband (well, high speed LAN) on college campuses.

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cdcarter 846 days ago | link

And now, my university uses Mojo to browse and download an entire users collection. It works incredibly well, and you really do get to know people. I remember meeting someone a year after downloading almost a 1/3rd of their library, and being able to talk right away.

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shingen 846 days ago | link

I hadn't bothered to look at Spotify, in terms of using the service (I was familiar with the company et al). I've used iTunes with locally stored music for a really long time.

So I went to spotify.com, read over their product and information. Checked out their plans. Decided I'd see what they can do with the Unlimited $4.99 plan.

I went to sign up for Spotify. They required I use my Facebook account.

Nope.

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funkah 846 days ago | link

Cloud music services are too limited, and all they get you is not having to store your music on a device you carry around with you all the time anyway.

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