Decentralized Web Histories

An Exploration of P2P and Decentralized Tech: From the Dawn of Computing

1st Gen, Centralized - Napster

While finishing his freshman year at Northeastern University, Shawn Fanning decided to create a piece of software that would allow people to search for and share MP3 files they had trouble finding. He then founded a company, Napster, Inc. in May of 1999, dropped out of school, and moved to northern California. Napster quickly became the world’s largest community for sharing music files because it allowed easy searching, had a user-friendly interface, let users communicate with each other in various ways (i.e. chat), and to share each others’ bookmarks.

Due to the recording industry’s efforts to close Napster down, many of the music sharing enthusiasts who had made it such a popular phenomenon moved on to use other services, such as Gnutella, AudioGalaxy, and Freenet. This was even more problematic for those concerned with copyright issues because these new services didn’t have centralized servers or organizational structures to shut down. - Early History of Napster - Legal Timeline

  • June 1, 1999, Napster

    Napster had a very different face when it first came into existence in 1999. The developers of the original Napster (brothers Shawn and John Fanning, along with Sean Parker) launched the service as a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing network. The software application was easy to use with a free account, and it was specifically designed for sharing digital music files (in the MP3 format) across a Web-connected network.

  • Dec. 7, 1999: RIAA Sues Napster


  • Sep 6, 2000, eDonkey2000 - Sued for copyright infringement.