Despite a voluntary shutdown of its service, Napster Inc.'s site remains the most visited file-sharing Web music site on the Internet; its market share is beginning to slip, however, according to numbers released Monday by market research company Nielsen/NetRatings, the audience measurement service from Nielsen Media Research Inc. and NetRatings Inc.
For the eight-week period ending July 15, Napster's Web site lost 36 percent of its traffic, NetRatings said in a statement. Napster's file-sharing service has been offline since July 2 but even after that date visitors have been hitting the site.
"Napster's user base declined dramatically (because of the shutdown), but we still saw people downloading the software," Jarvis Mak, a senior Internet analyst at NetRatings said. "Their Web site is a place where people not only download the software, but also find news about Napster and the deals they've made," Mak said. During the shutdown, many Napster users also ended up at the site to find out why their software wasn't working, he added.
Meanwhile, alternative sites to Napster have seen visits rise, with Kazaa.com, BearShare.com, Audiogalaxy.com and iMesh.com all seeing their sites gain traffic during the period, with the 12- to 17-year-old age group leading the transition to alternate services, Netratings said.
During the two-month period, Napster went from 4 million visitors to 2.6 million, but the others still have a long way to go before catching up. Audiogalaxy's site boasts the only numbers remotely close to Napster, with 707,000 unique visitors, and while Kazaa.com saw a 142 percent increase in traffic, the site still only had 433,000 visitors. IMesh visitors grew by 26 percent, to 331,000, while Bearshare's site grew 36 percent during the period to 274,000 unique visitors, NetRatings said. That means that the sites of Napster's top four competitors still only boast a combined 1.75 million individual visitors.
Most of theses visitors are probably Napster enthusiasts, Mak said. "They are familiar with peer-to-peer services, and since they can't use Napster, they're seeking alternatives."
As use of these services increases, it results in a snowball effect of file swapping, he said. "These are spreading through word-of-mouth, as well as the news," Mak said. "As more people use a service, more songs become available."