Napster is a controversial application that allows people to share music over the Internet without having to purchase their own copy on CD. After downloading Napster, a user can get access to music recorded in the MP3 format from other users who are online at the same time. You can simply type in the name of an artist or song, receive a list of what's available, and then download the music from another user's hard drive. Users need to continually check the Napster directory since the music that is available depends on who is online at the time.
Napster users can not only play the music back after downloading it but also put it on their own CD (if they have a CD writer). Napster also allows music to be played from their server and maintains chatting forums.
19-year-old Shawn Fanning created Napster in 1999, and it has quickly become popular on college campuses. Some schools have banned the application because of its high bandwidth demands. Napster faces another challenge from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has filed a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement. If the courts rule that applications like Napster amount to piracy, tough, new sentencing laws may discourage its use.
Napster has given rise to other Web-based applications for downloading MP3 files, such as Gnutella, Napigator, and Wrapster. In addition to Napster, Macintosh gurus can download Macster and Open Source adherents can use GNapster.