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"The growth of the FastTrack network continues to be astounding. During the last four months the number of users typically logged on has risen by 480%, and in November will likely surpass the 1.57 million simultaneous users that Napster, the popular song-swapping service, enjoyed at its peak."
——Webnoize analyst Matt Bailey
USE OF NAPSTER ALTERNATIVES INCREASES AGAIN
Research Indicates Use of Kazaa, MusicCity and Grokster Up 20% Since September
Web research firm Webnoize reports that the use of Napster-alternative services like Kazaa, MusicCity and Grokster has increased yet again.

In October, users swapped 1.81 billion media files, a 20% increase from the 1.51 billion files downloaded during September, according to Webnoize. The three services have seen a steady increase in usage since Napster’s court-ordered July shutdown.

All three applications use software licensed from FastTrack, an Amsterdam-based peer-to-peer technology company, and share the same network.

"The growth of the FastTrack network continues to be astounding," said Webnoize analyst "Won’t You Come Home" Matt Bailey. "During the last four months the number of users typically logged on has risen by 480%, and in November will likely surpass the 1.57 million simultaneous users that Napster, the popular song-swapping service, enjoyed at its peak."

During October, 1.3 million users were typically logged on to the combined network at any one time, compared to 1 million simultaneous users in September.

Some of these alternatives also allow users to swap movies in addition to songs. On Oct. 3, 28 music and movie companies sued MusicCity, Grokster and FastTrack, which also maintains and develops the Kazaa application. The lawsuit accuses the defendants of "massive" copyright infringement.

Of course, lawsuits mean publicity, and publicity means a boost in consumer awareness. "As higher awareness translates into higher usage, the FastTrack network may ultimately become many times larger than Napster ever was," Bailey said.

In a bit of good news for the music industry, a recent Jupiter Media Metrix survey found the unplugging of Napster had actually curbed song-swapping in Europe.

According to the report, Jupiter said the level of Internet file-sharing activity has dropped by 50% in Europe since Napster’s peak in February.

The decline in Europe coincides with an upswing in the United States during the same period, the company said.

In February, 8.1 million European Internet users were accessing a dozen separate file-sharing sites, with the overwhelming majority accessing Napster. In August, the number dropped to 4.6 million users across 19 sites.

Last month, Jupiter reported that, unlike Europe, file-sharing activity had jumped by 500% between March and August thanks to the popularity of Napster alternatives.

Of course, since the majority of the files being swapped are songs by Chris de Burgh and David Hasselhoff, the damage is really relative.

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