Attack of the Napster Clones

by Scott Bass for Digital Living Today

The controversial music file sharing program Napster [http://www.napster.com] was the media’s darling in 2000, thanks to high-profile legal challenges and a staggering number of traded files. The New Year finds the company working with at least one major record label on a subscription model. Nobody knows how successful this strategy will be, but one thing is sure: Today’s Internet sports an ever-growing roster of file sharing programs, all seeking to challenge Napster for the throne. Stay tuned – it’s guaranteed to get ever more interesting.

The Competition Some promising P2P programs to watch:

iNoize [http://www.inoize.com] Touting their software as “the legal alternative to Napster,” the folks at iNoize have put a fundamental twist in the file sharing scenario. Like Napster the service only features music files, but unlike most file sharing systems, files can only be streamed (sent to your PC in real time). Music can’t be downloaded or copied, so iNoize is basically a gigantic Web-wide jukebox.

SpinFrenzy [http://www.spinfrenzy.com] This community (currently in beta test phase), aimed at “Gen Y’ers,” requires a small download before you can share files and use a Web-based interface to find pictures, music and video files. Along with file sharing, SpinFrenzy community members receive free Web space and any help they need to post their pages.

MojoNation [http://www.mojonation.net] This service hasn’t addressed the issue of intellectual property rights, but has found a solution to the Napster problem (that is, most P2P networkers download many more files than they share with others). MojoNation fixes this by requiring something called “mojo,” downloading credits acquired by uploading files or lending some of your computer’s CPU power to maintaining the MojoNation network.

iMesh [http://www.imesh.com] iMesh may be the hottest new thing on the virtual block. According to their Web site, they already have over two million users. Members of the iMesh community can share any kind of file through the iMesh software or through their user-friendly Web interface.

FLIPR (Future License of Intellectual Property Rights) [http://www.flipr.com] This company is gearing up to release their file sharing service the first quarter of 2001. Unlike most P2P networks, FLIPR will only feature music from labels that have given permission for their works to be traded. Artists are reimbursed royalties per download. The buzz is that a whole bunch of the big indie labels are already on board.

Add-Ons These programs live on top of other P2P software and increase functionality:

Napigator [http://www.napigator.com] Instead of being stuck with one of the few servers built into (and maintained by) Napster, this plug-in allows you to connect to a variety of alternate Napster networks.

Wrapster [http://www.unwrapper.com/] “Wraps” non-music files (and archives) into MP3 documents and tricks Napster into letting you share any type of file over the Napster network. More importantly, it helps you find other “wrapped” files uploaded by other users. Works great with Napigator for real P2P power surfing.

AIMster [http://www.aimster.com] This unofficial plug-in for AOL’s Instant Messenger (IM) integrates the popular Gnutella file trading software into the easy-to-use and ubiquitous IM, thus making Gnutella accessible to just about anyone.

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