The Last Napster Sunday?
Saturday, July 22, 2000 by Dave Winer.
This morning I'm listening to The Bangles, Manic Monday.
Let's change the words.
"These are the days when I'm glad my bed is already made, it's just another Napster Sunday, glad it's Sun-day, that's my fun day, an I don't have to run day, just another Napster Sunday."
It's a happy Sunday because there's music, but it's also a sad Sunday, because if the judge shuts down Napster on Wednesday, this could be the last Napster Sunday.
Music and the Internet are perfect together. The songs are big, but not so big that you can't deal with it. And once they're on your hard disk, you can arrange them into playlists, programming your own radio station, one that plays all the songs you want, in the order you like them. Something that all previous music distribution systems wouldn't let us do, even though the technology has existed for years.
Software developers now have an installed base to shoot at. However it happened, whether or not Napster is shut down by the courts, there's now a lot of cool music sitting on people's hard drives. A perfect opportunity for tool-makers. Watch the software artists swoop in to fill the void filled by a court ordered shutdown of Napster, if it happens; or to develop a market around Napster if the court leaves them alone. (There's always the chance that the RIAA will drop its suit.)
No matter what the court says, music is still the killer app of the Internet. Every day the music industry delays the more hopeless its case gets with the users. The Napster suit is a cut off your nose to spite your face move. They can sue Napster, they can shut them down, nothing will change.
With apologies to Dell, Gateway, Compaq etc, why doesn't the RIAA go after the PC vendors too?
They've been shipping music-ready PCs for years. You can't buy a PC these days without a sound system, and for just a few bucks extra you can get a really good sound system.
Didn't their technology open the door, just as Napster's did?
(Why don't they sue Microsoft for shipping a media player SDK? How do you think Napster plays the music?)
The whole discussion is so new, last week I was emailing with Steve Wozniak, and asked if he was tripping out on all the music that's on the Net now. He said no, and explained that the software that's available for the Mac doesn't really work. I was just beginning to realize that.
Napster is only available for Windows. This is significant because lots of artists and music lovers use Macs. That may explain why we haven't heard from more musicians. If they were using Napster, I believe, we'd be hearing more from them about the potential of the technology. But if the technology is itself a barrier, they may not know why this new medium is so exciting.
Napster users could organize a little, find a musician and ask them to sit down with you and show them why you love Napster. Play some music. Do a search. Look for music from his or her youth. Show the serendipity. The unexpected things you find.
(Like searching for the symphony composer Ives, and finding Burl Ives songs. I honestly think you can't listen to Burl Ives without being happy! Napster use is filled with that kind of serendipity.)
(Or searching for Manic Monday and finding the Mamas and the Papas' Monday Monday.)
All the noise about Napster is coming from the music industry, but they're not the only ones who were routed around. Perhaps suprisingly, so were the search engines.
Napster is a Just In Time Search Engine, or JIT-SE for short, an idea I evangelized four years ago.
The Napster search engine is so dynamic you can easily overlook the stunning innovation. Imagine a Google that indexed content on all the machines that are connected to it, as soon as they go offline, their content disappears, as soon as they come back online, boom all their content is visible again and indexed.
There's a germ of a revolutionary idea in there, and if you work at a Search Engine company, pay close attention, your business is being revolutionized too. A new kind of Internet is developing. It's different from the one before, its purpose is to make finding things easy. Things that are really there. Napster deploys a new architecture that's going to be important, very important.
I often put out public offers to work with other people, usually no one answers. With that in mind, if you want to work on this, I have a content management system with thousands of users, scalable to millions, and I'd like to work on dynamic search engines, but I must stay focused on things I know well, like writing tools and groupware, and be a user of things that are useful where I haven't personally mastered the technology. So if you do search engines and find this interesting let me know.
Here's a spec that describes the protocol behind Napster.
No XML in sight, yet what it does is largely what XML was supposed to do, provide a way for users of different operating systems and software to connect their systems together. At least that's what I thought XML was for.
I have an inkling that Napster blows away XML, as HTML blew away desktop publishing in the 90s (desktop publishing was bigger than XML is today). Napster has 20 million users, which is approximately 20 million more than XML-RPC or SOAP, which do roughly the same thing. (I can hear the XML crowd say it's not true, but let's revisit this in a couple of years and see who was right.)
I've been one of the biggest proponents of XML. I have to retool if this is a real route-around. Luckily it's not that big a job to plug in a new protocol behind distributed computing APIs, if you use them, as we do.
However, imho, it's not over yet. There's still a corner-turn possible for XML. Stay tuned.
There's a huge information industry adjacent to the music industry, ranking and rating artists and fans, following patterns, feeding it back to the fans, a closed loop where none of the fans meet each other with their minds. The Internet changes that. If fans have minds, the Internet gives them a voice. And not just in the margins, any music fan can start their own website easily, and many of them have, and more will.
Another route-around the Napster lawsuit does nothing to stop. As Blondie sings "The tide is high but I'm holding on, I'm going to be your number one, number one." You'll see some addictive viral killer apps out there coming online. So much empty space.
Hey this may be the last Napster Sunday. Enjoy it while you can.
And years from now, when a child asks if you remember when the world changed, you can tell them you were there.