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"Media Metrix ratings show a wide scattering of the former Napster audience to various other music file-sharing resources."
—Doug McFarland, Media Metrix President
NAPSTER SHARES ITS USER BASE
Swappery Suffers As P2P Alternatives Multiply
News flash: Napster ain’t what it used to be.

So says a new report from Jupiter Media Metrix, which details just how grim things are for the legally challenged file-sharing company. According to the report, which claims to account for 85% of the online population worldwide, total time spent using the Napster application fell 65% among home users in 14 countries from February-June 2001. Napster use peaked at 6.3 billion minutes in February, dropping to 2.2 billion minutes in June.

Unique users, meanwhile, also fell dramatically over the same period, from 26.4 million to 18.3 million, or 31%. Apparently, if you take away most of the content people are using your service for and then actually shut your servers down for a while, it can have a negative impact on your ratings. Shawn Fanning must be scratching whatever’s under that baseball cap over this one.

But here’s the really tricky part: The Media Metrix research further indicates that, in the U.S. at least, folks aren’t just unplugging their computers and crying themselves to sleep at night over Napster's spilled milk. No, these wily, inscrutable wireheads actually have had the audacity to seek out alternative swap systems, many of the dreaded decentralized variety, and continue swapping copyrighted music at will. While none of these alternatives have anything approaching even the shriveled Napster’s user base, they are growing at an alarming rate: The number of P2Ps on the Media Metrix radar has grown to six in May 2001 from five in March, with data showing that Bodetella, a relatively new flavor of Gnutella software, has about a million unique users, while Audiogalaxy has 978,000 and Imesh 474,000.

And if those don’t suit you, there’s always Kazaa, Grokster, Morpheus, Limewire, Freenet or Bearshare, to name a few.

"Last year Napster became one of the fastest-growing software applications Media Metrix ever reported, with its U.S. user base nearly quadrupling within six months of the application's debut into the ratings reports," says Media Metrix President Doug McFarland. "Today, the Media Metrix ratings show a wide scattering of the former Napster audience to various other music file-sharing resources." Hank Barry and all the boys at Hummer Winblad must be stoked.

So, while the much-touted digital revolution may have been pronounced over in the wake of Napster’s trouncing and the sale of one-time rabble rouser Michael Robertson’s MP3.com to arch-nemesis Vivendi Universal, some think the real fun might just be starting.

These and other content-owner stomachaches will be addressed at this year’s Plug.In conference being held next week in New York. Scheduled speakers include VU's Edgar Bronfman, Jr., RealNetworks' Rob Glaser, AOL Music's Kevin Conroy, Bertelsmann e-Commerce Group's Andreas Schmidt and even Hank Barry himself, who may offer to squeegee your windshield for lunch money.

  

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