In computing, a file-sharing system that operates over the Internet, created by Shawn Fanning in 1999. Although Napster could be used to share any kind of file, its success was in enabling people to share media files, and especially MP3s. This resulted in large-scale copyright infringements by Napster users. Napster was forced to close down in 2001, and in 2002 reorganized to offer a secure music file-sharing service that aimed to benefit both music artists and consumers.
Files were stored on individual Napster users' hard disks and indexed by Napster's servers. Users then searched the indexes for an artist or a song they were looking for and then downloaded it from the appropriate Napster user's hard disk. Because not all Napster users were online at the same time, the availability of files varied over time. In December 1999, Napster was taken to court by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which interpreted Napster as software expressly designed to infringe copyright. The RIAA was successful in its action, and Napster officially closed the service to around 60 million users in July 2001, nearly a year after a US court issued an injunction against it. In the remaining months of 2001, the management of Napster developed a new secure file-trading network.
Although the major recording companies have launched online music services, such as MusicNet and Pressplay, these have not been successful, as music fans continue to use file-swapping services like KaZaA and Gnutella, which have millions of users.