Created by Shawn Fanning in 1999 (when he was nineteen years old), Napster is an application that gives individuals access to one another's MP3 files on each other's hard drives, creating a peer-to-peer network system via the Internet. It operates on most operating systems (including Windows 95, 98, 2000, and NT systems). There are several other versions, including Macster, the Macintosh-compatible software version; Gnapster, the open source version; and Aimster, which allows users to share files via AOL's Instant Messaging program, AIM.
Because Napster searches individual hard drives, the number and variety of MP3 files always vary as not all Napster users are online at the same time (therefore, what you find one day may not be there the next).
Napster, Inc., currently run by CEO Konrad Hilbers, has been under fire from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which considers Napster as copyright-infringement software. However, because the MP3 files do not reside on Napster's servers-and since Napster doesn't charge a fee for the service-critics feel the RIAA has a weak legal leg to stand on. Napster simply allows individuals to share music (as do tape recorders and CD burners) and while the debate continues, many users feel that Napster is revolutionizing the consumer music market and that it is up to the music industry (namely Warner, Universal, BMG, Sony, and EMI) to adapt. At the time of this printing, a lawsuit filed by the RIAA was dropped, and an alliance was formed to develop a joint file-sharing music service. Film at 11. Napster's software has been downloaded more than 70 million times.