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Dead at 13: Napster 1998-2011

P2P pioneer, later online music shop, closed in US

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So, farewell then, Napster.

The company founded by Shawn Fanning - who named it after his close-crop haircut, apparently - when his peer-to-peer file-sharing app of the same name took off, is no more.

The firm that now owns it, Rhapsody, will fold the online music shop that Napster became into its own store, in the US at least.

Napster the software debuted in 1998, but was jumped upon by the music industry - in particular by its militant wing, the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) - and closed down by a US appeals court judge in 2001.

The following year, its assets were acquired by German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, but the reformed company quickly collapsed into bankruptcy.

Pr0n company Private Media Group briefly acquired the name, but the moniker and the software eventually ended up in the hands of software firm Roxio, in November 2002. Roxio went on, in May 2003, to buy PressPlay, a music subscription service started by Sony and Universal, and eventually relaunched it as Napster.

But its decision to offer music for rent rather than sale - subscribe and download as many tracks as you like, but they'll stop playing if you stop paying - proved a lot less popular than Apple's buy-and-download model.

Napster hobbled on, launching internationally in 2004, before being acquired by US retail giant Best Buy in September 2008 for a mere $121m.

Rhapsody - itself a music rental service, founded by erstwhile Apple rival Real Networks - bought Napster off Best Buy last month. Given the death of the name, Rhapsody clearly acquired Napster for its customer list, not its brand.

What of Napster UK? Will it go too? We're still waiting to hear from it, and we'll let you know when we do. ®

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