This Revolution Has Already Taken Place: The Rise and Fall of Napster

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As you read this, there's a good chance you're enjoying some amazing tunes through an online streaming service like Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music. Or maybe you prefer keeping things a little bit old-school with your trusty iPod and — ready for it? — headphones that actually have wires. No matter what your favorite way to tune in might be, it’s safe to say the way we listen to music, not to mention the music industry itself, has evolved drastically in the last couple of decades. Many people credit this musical revolution to the peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software program Napster.

But Napster’s appeal to everyday listeners — namely the ability to expand their music libraries without having to pay to access that new music — was also responsible for its downfall. After facing costly lawsuits from irate executives and artists, Napster shut down its servers in July of 2001. As we approach the two-decade mark since Napster's demise, we’re taking a look back at the rise and fall of one of the most controversial web-based applications in internet history, from its origins to the way it changed the music industry forever.