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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

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 x360

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 910

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.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?