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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Napster Merged with Rhapsody

The pioneer of peer-to-peer file-sharing seems to die another death, by succumbing again to the entertainment market forces instead of the long arm of the law. It has been more than dozen years since the service called Napster pioneered the art of P2P file-sharing, setting the music industry in fire with digital content distribution. Music industry eventually sued the service and forced Napster to shut down its servers, after which the entire world watched as a steady stream of new and improved peer-peer protocols was taking Napster’s place in the market in a succession of formats.

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Of course, the entertainment industry would finally realize that the battle with Napster was a mistake and the record labels should have bought the service to be able to embrace digital music distribution. However, now we can see that it would be a bit too late. Everyone thought that over the years the pioneer would come and go in different legitimate incarnations, but surprisingly enough last week its most recent incarnation was acquired by the same sort of entertainment market forces that it unleashed upon the industry with such devastative success. It turned out that Napster has recently merged with Rhapsody, thus shifting all its subscribers over to Rhapsody’s streaming music subscription service. Although the new service still remains unchanged with subscribers offered access to more than two million songs at home or on the go for only $10 a month, it is hard not to imagine that even this new venture will be short-lived.

Today the internet users have literally tons of free music streaming options, starting from the likes of Spotify and YouTube, and up to Amazon and Google entering the market in order to compete with even more offers against industry heavyweight iTunes. Thus, it seems that it is just a matter of time before Napster-Rhapsody fades completely into irrelevance.

The matter is that for $10 a month the consumer never actually owns anything – instead, they are basically renting the content from Rhapsody. And considering the fact that Napster didn’t fare well with charging only $5 a month for unlimited streaming and five monthly downloads, it is not clear how Rhapsody can expect to stay afloat. In other words, although this may not be the final death of the P2P pioneer, it is undoubtedly the one that will last for quite some time.

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