To enjoy our content, please include The Japan Times on your ad-blocker's list of approved sites. Some way from San Mateo, in suburban London I had just become one myself. There was no transition. Napster was a ridiculous leap forward. I was part of the web-straddling generation. The Internet, when it came in our teens, was welcome, exciting and fathomable, but it changed things briskly and sometimes bewilderingly. Music was something you bought after protracted debate with friends in the aisles of Our Price, and then, suddenly, songs were accessible from home. We were wilfully blinkered, probably, on the exact details of this last point.
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On 1 June , a piece of computer software was released that changed the way we listen to music forever. But within a few short years it would spell the end of the gold rush record companies had enjoyed in the age of the CD, and change how music is consumed and even written. Napster was the brainchild of Shawn Fanning, a year-old US computer hacker who had worked out a way to share music for free. It was, essentially, a cataloguing system that searched your hard-drive, listed all the MP3 music files contained in it, and allowed those to be shared with and played by anyone else using the software. Together with Sean Parker, Fanning created a service that made music discovery almost instant and without cost. Shawn Fanning became the poster boy for online music sharing after creating Napster as a teenager Credit: Getty Images.
I n the first weeks of the founders of Napster were in their office above a bank in San Mateo, California, considering dizzying numbers. Figures scrawled on a whiteboard told how many people around the world had installed their file-sharing application and were using it to download music from each other's computers. As recounted in Downloaded — a documentary soon to premiere at the SXSW film festival , telling the story of a piece of software that came and went and whipped up a new digital music industry in its slip — Napster had 20 million users at the time. Some way from San Mateo, in suburban London I had just become one myself. I was 17, and the owner of an irregular music collection that numbered about 20 albums, most of them a real shame OMC's How Bizarre , the Grease 2 soundtrack.
In , a teenage, baseball-capped Sean Parker, future billionaire Facebook investor, told journalists that one day "everyone will be listening to music on their cellphones. Downloaded, the story of music-file sharing service Napster, is full of prophetic moments like this, where the company founders, Parker and Shawn Fanning, are already glimpsing a future where fans are streaming music across multiple devices, even as everyone else is popping down to the Virgin Megastore to buy the Spice Girls' CD. The two-hour documentary had its world premiere at the SXSW music and film festival in Texas, attended by the two Napster founders and the film's director, Alex Winter. But since then he has done very little apart from direct a handful of TV series. This version of Napster's story has echoes of Bill and Ted — two clueless teenagers who unwittingly manage to change history. Parker and Fanning, from Virginia and Massachusetts respectively, met in an internet chatroom in the s.