Napster users shut out as service revamps


July 8, 2001



Users of the Napster file-sharing service were locked out last week after the company decided to block transfers of all music files.

On its Web site, Napster called the shut down temporary, placing the blame on "the database upon which our new file identification technology relies, and those problems were making the technology less effective."

Napster is under court order to prohibit the swapping of copyrighted files on its service. The company has disabled support for older versions of its file-swapping software, and users are prompted to upgrade to the latest version -- which contains the technology to help identify copyrighted works and prevent the sharing of those files.

The technology wasn't working as designed, and Napster officials said some copyrighted works were slipping through. Shutting the service down was seen as the best alternative, the Web site stated.

Napster's millions of users have fled the service for other similar file-swapping Web sites, though they may also find themselves under legal attack for allowing the transfer of copyrighted works.

At the beginning of May, Napster claimed it had more than 1.3 million visitors a day to its file-swapping service. In the last couple of weeks, the number of users has plunged to fewer than 150,000 a day.

Plans to revamp Napster into a fee-based service are still in the works, the Web site stated.

It has tentative plans to offer users access to music from EMI, Warner and BMG record labels, though that deal will depend largely on Napster's ability to prevent unauthorized file swapping.

Originally, the new, fee-based Napster service was going to launch this month, though the official word now is "sometime this summer."

Napster's Web site did not state when the shutdown of the service would end.

For more details, visit Napster's Web site at

FREE NO MORE. The transition of advertising-supported dot-com businesses from "free" to "fee" seems to be continuing., a business and consumer Web-based e-mail provider, announced last week its plans to drop its free, ad-supported consumer e-mail service.

The company said the change was necessary due to the drop in revenue from online advertising.

Individuals with free consumer accounts will have to pay $29.99 for a year of service after July 31. After that date, the price jumps to $49.99 per year of service. claims more than four million customers for its consumer and business e-mail services.

Other companies have dropped the ad-supported business model and shifted to a fee-based one for their services, including free e-mail pioneer Juno and free Internet provider NetZero.

The company's Web site states its corporate services will not be affected by the move.

For more information, visit

CUBE ON ICE. Despite its cutting-edge design, Apple Computers is pulling the plug on its Power Mac G4 Cube.

Just a year in production, the Cube never sold as well as the company anticipated. The Cube had been unavailable from distributors for quite some time, which fueled rumors of its demise.

The 8-inch square computer drew a lot of attention when it was released, but it failed to catch on with new users. Most who purchased it were Mac fans who liked the unique look it offered.

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