Napster plug-in lets music play on

The add-on is called Napigator 2.0 and it's made by Thirty4 Interactive. Napigator 2.0 improves on its standalone predecessor Napigator 1.4 by integrating with the Napster client. And it's unaffiliated with Napster.

Once installed, Napigator 2.0 appears as a tab in one corner of the Napster client. You can click on it to link to a growing list of so-called OpenNap servers. This global network of servers works just like Napster servers, but is maintained by a group of open-source programmers who reverse-engineered the Napster protocol. Using Napigator 2.0 with a Napster client lets you bypass Napster's network and link to an independent one.

Napigator 2.0 is among a growing number of alternatives to Napster, as the music-sharing site's future remains uncertain. After a federal appeals court ruled last week that Napster encourages violation of copyright laws, the site began reinventing itself as a subscription service.

Meanwhile, Internet music fans are checking out competing file-sharing programs, in case Napster is shut down or levies membership fees. The newest version of Napigator, the 2.0 plug-in, is downloadable in an alpha version.

OpenNap servers proliferate

Clearly, Napigator is finding a ready audience. As of Friday, it lists 287 OpenNap servers with files to share, compared with Napster's 56.

"Napigator offers a service that Napster isn't offering and apparently a lot of users want," says Chad Boyda, co-founder of Boyda says Napigator points about 180,000 users to OpenNap servers each day. The company clocked 1.6 million users of the software last month, and expects 1.8 million in February.

Servers play a vital role for Napster by acting as a huge card catalogue of digital music files. You can search this index for songs, and when you find what you want, Napster points you to PCs with that song on their hard drives.

Boyda says Napster is unaware of Napigator 2.0, which differs from the earlier edition by actually plugging into the Napster client. Napster concurs, and representatives decline to comment on the new rival.

The chief advantage of Napigator 2.0 is its ease of use, marrying the Napster client with OpenNap servers. This may draw the millions of people with only basic computer skills and little interest in fussing with other Napster competitors. Many of them are peer-to-peer clients that are more difficult to use, such as Gnutella and Freenet.

Napigator's challenges

Despite its audience, Napigator faces challenges as the next potential Napster. Its OpenNap servers outnumber those of Napster, but many are inferior to Napster's. They include everything from high-end PCs located in basements to big-iron servers operated by companies like that are tepidly following Napster's lead.

OpenNap is also, predictably, raising hackles at the Recording Industry Association of America, which wants to shut down those servers. They view OpenNap as an extension of what they consider Napster's illegal service. RIAA brought the original copyright infringement suit against Napster.

"We are not interested in litigating our way though the Internet," says Matthew Oppenheim, RIAA senior vice president of business and legal affairs. "A lot of services out there should read the court decision closely."

Boyda isn't worried. "We are confident there is no legal argument to shut us down," he says. Boyda compares his software to a search engine pointing Netizens to OpenNap servers. He says the RIAA hasn't been in contact with his firm.

Grassroots allegiances grow

The largest provider of OpenNap servers,, is participating with OpenNap but has no formal relationship. "We are taking things on a moment-by-moment basis," says Jeff Hardison, spokesperson.

Operators of OpenNap servers submit the Internet location of servers to Napigator. Napigator then sends spiders to maintain a dynamic list servers accessible within the Napster plug-in. In fact, Napigator is only one of several software clients that offer access to the OpenNap network of servers. Others include and MyNapster. These utilities let you share multiple file types, rather than just audio files.

However, the process also makes OpenNap servers easy to trace, which could make them easy to sue.

Meanwhile is pushing ahead with its business plan. Currently, it makes money from banner ads served inside the Napigator client. The company is also testing a new service called Amazon Honor System, which lets satisfied Napigator users "tip" as payment.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Spring

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial® BX200 SATA 2.5” 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Xiro Drone Xplorer V -3 Axis Gimbal & 1080p Full HD 14MP Camera

Learn more >

ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q – Reign beyond virtual world

Learn more >

D-Link TAIPAN AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Modem Router (DSL-4320L)

Learn more >

D-Link PowerLine AV2 2000 Gigabit Network Kit

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >


Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

ASUS VivoPC VM62 - Incredibly Powerful, Unbelievably Small

Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Best Deals on PC World

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.


Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?