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 Thirty4.com. 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 MusicCity.com 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, MusicCity.com, is participating with OpenNap but has no formal relationship. "We are taking things on a moment-by-moment basis," says Jeff Hardison, MusicCity.com 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 MusicCity.com 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 Thirty4.com 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 Amazon.com service called Amazon Honor System, which lets satisfied Napigator users "tip" Thirty4.com 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

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

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

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

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

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?