Napster fans will soon pay to download tunes
Feb. 4, 2001
By JIM BROOKS
If you're a fan of the MP3 download site Napster, you can start saving your change. The site will become a subscription site by June or July this year.
Napster signed a deal with Bertelsmann AG, a Germany media company, in October as a way of fending off copyright lawsuits from the music industry.
Part of that deal was that Napster would eventually require a payment to allow users to download music files.
The move is also aimed at legitimizing the Web site in the eyes of other industry players who still plan to pursue legal action against Napster.
Napster is software that allows all its users to share music files. A number of music industry companies have filed lawsuits against Napster for copyright infringement, since users can download the files without paying a dime.
Two record labels have dropped their lawsuits against Napster. The rest of the recording industry -- so far -- is still going after Napster.
Napster claims several million users, with an estimated 1.6 million online at any given time.
No exact date has been set for the debut of Napster as a subscription service.
NO GO FOR GO.COM. After years of trying to turn its Web portal into an industry leader, the Walt Disney Co. plans to close the Go.com Web site, and dissolve its Internet division.
Go.com will continue to operate until the company has its services and users moved to other sites. It may even sell the Infoseek search engine it purchased in 1998.
Disney president Robert Iger explained in an interview with the Associated Press that it was clear that Go.com would never be an industry leader, and that a challenging business would only become more challenging as time passed.
The Disney portal was ranked fourth in December by Media Metrix, following AOL, Yahoo and MSN.
The Disney portal was also hurt by the sharp decline in the value of Internet stocks that began last April. As part of the dissolution of Disney's Internet Group, stockholders will receive shares of Disney common stock.
For more information visit www.disney.com.
JUNO'S NEW PLAN. Free Internet providers have fallen by the wayside in recent months, and Juno Online Services' latest plan may indicate it too is looking for ways to ensure its future.
In an effort to underwrite the costs of providing free Internet service, the company has announced a plan that would require users to leave their computers running 24-hours-a-day. Juno would then sell the excess processing power of its combined users to other companies.
This isn't the first time this sort of "virtual computer" has been tried. The SETI project (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) has been using this distributed computing method to help run complicated and complex calculations.
The SETI program puts participants' computers to work when the machine is idle. Juno's plan would similarly use its free subscriber's computers when they were idle.
Juno would sell this distributed computer power to institutions and corporations seeking this sort of megacomputer power.
The difference between the SETI program and Juno's plan is the SETI program is voluntary; Juno could require its free users to participate -- or they could switch to one of Juno's fee-based Internet access plans.
The plan will be tested first with volunteers, but it could become mandatory if tests are successful.
Juno was founded in 1996 as a free e-mail company. It later expanded to free Internet access. It has nearly 4 million users, but has yet to turn a profit.
Juno, NetZero and BlueLight.com are the remaining major free Internet providers in a once-crowded field of competitors.
EBAY E-MAIL MEASURES. In a move to thwart "spammers" -- those companies responsible for sending out those endless streams of junk e-mail -- the online auction Web site eBay will make it more difficult to obtain users' e-mail addresses.
Instead of users sending e-mail to other users from their own e-mail programs, eBay users will now use an online form, which will only reveal the username of the person involved in the auction.
The move will also keep users from completing transactions without paying eBay its share of the fees.
For more information, visit eBay at www.eBay.com.
DSL VS. CABLE. In the battle for high-speed Internet service, consumers appear to choosing DSL services over cable TV service, according to a new report "Broadband Users: Cable vs. DSL" from the Strategis Group.
Though DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) appears a more popular choice, a greater percentage of cable users are satisfied with their high-speed access than DSL users.
Fifty-five percent of broadband users today have a choice between DSL or cable modem, the report said. Sixty percent of new users are choosing DSL services.
But cable modem's higher satisfaction led to a lower churn rate among subscribers -- those who subscribed to cable access were pleased and stayed with the service.
The key to any business still seems to be customer service and support. The Web is filled with horror stories about going online with DSL service -- a recent Wired Magazine article made the point that the technology needs to become easier to setup and install by its users.
DSL users tend to be less satisfied with the service and more than twice as many reported leaving DSL for other high-speed service providers.
The study was based on surveys of more than 1,600 broadband subscribers.
For more information, visit www.strategisgroup.com.
AOL VIRUS. A password-stealing virus has hit users of the America Online Internet service.
The "Hey you" virus spreads through e-mail and installs itself on users' computers, and attempts to steal AOL version 4.0 and 5.0 user names and passwords.
The virus then attempts to send itself to users listed in the AOL users' Buddy List.
While the virus isn't new, the anti-virus Web site McAfee.com reported an increase in infected computers from users scanning their systems at the McAfee.com Web site.
The virus sometimes shows up as an attachment named "mine.zip," with the subject line "hey you."
The copy within the email forwarded reads, ``hey I finally got my pics scanned...theres like 5 or 6 of them...so just download it and unzip it ... and for you people who don't know how to then scroll down ... tell me what you think of my pics OK?''
Comments and questions about this column may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.
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