Napster is the name applicable three distinct music-focused online services.
It was founded as a pioneering peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing Internet service that emphasized sharing digital audio files, songs, encoded in MP3 format. The company ran into legal difficulties over copyright infringement, ceased operations, and was eventually acquired by Roxio. In its second incarnation, Napster became an online music store through which customers could pay for MP3 files; after it was acquired by Rhapsody, from Best Buy, on December 1, 2011, Napster emerged again as a streaming music service1.
Later companies and projects successfully followed its P2P file sharing example: Gnutella, Freenet, Kazaa, and BearShare. Some services, like LimeWire, Scour, Grokster, Madster, and eDonkey2000, were closed or changed due to copyright issues.
Napster was founded by ￼￼Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, initially envisioned as an independent peer-to-peer file sharing service by Shawn Fanning. The service operated between June 1999 and July 2001 and its technology allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with other participants.
Napster’s brand and logos were acquired at bankruptcy auction by Roxio which used them to re-brand the Pressplay music service as Napster 2.0. In September 2008, Napster was purchased by US electronics retailer Best Buy for US $121 million. On December 1, 2011, pursuant to a deal with Best Buy, Napster merged with Rhapsody, with Best Buy receiving a minority stake in Rhapsody. On July 14, 2016, Rhapsody phased out the Rhapsody brand in favor of Napster and has since branded its service internationally as Napster.
Today, Napster is expanding to other markets by providing music on-demand as a service to other brands. The most notable of these is the iHeartRadio app and their All Access music subscription service that provides subscribers with an on-demand music experience as well as premium radio2.