Cyber Ramblings - Aug 1, 2000

1 August 2000
Napster Survives
Spotlighted as the technology story of the week, Napster has won the latest round of its legal battle with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The U.S. Court of Appeals has overturned a temporary injunction requested by the RIAA. The injunction would have closed down the Napster website. For the moment, the site is still accessible. Napster, an Internet company started about a year ago by college freshman Shawn Fanning, allows its website visitors to download music in MP3 form free of cost.

It would be nearly impossible to eradicate all services of this sort because Napster copycats are popping up all over the Web. Two of them are Gnutella and Ian Clarke's Free Network Project. Both of these would be hard to prosecute since they do not rely on central servers. Other questionable technologies exist such as suppliers of MP3-type movie files that can be downloaded.

Does MP3 sharing really harm artists and record companies? A study by Jupiter Communications reported that MP3 users are 45 percent more likely to buy music than anyone else. Barry believes that his site actually helps promote music for artists. Many bands support Napster, including Limp Bizkit, the Smashing Pumpkins and Eve 6.

The site currently displays a "Message to the Napster Community" written by Barry. Among other things, he has called a "buy-cott," impelling Napster supporters to purchase albums by these supporting bands. He also wrote an opinion editorial for the San Jose Mercury News titled "It's Just Sharing." He says Napster is merely a way for users to engage in non-commercial file sharing and to experience and share music.

At an Internet music conference on July 23, Barry expressed plans to "move toward a business model that recognizes intellectual property." In other words, he says he believes that artists should be compensated when MP3 files of their work are shared. MP3 file sharing is probably here to stay, though whether Napster will remain the principle provider of these services is yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the huge lawsuit has been intriguing. A survey by of 8000 Internet users worldwide found that 89 percent support Napster's cause. The company, which reports having at least 20 million patrons, says that traffic to the site has increased dramatically during the lawsuit. According to Nielsen//NetRatings, the site saw a 92 percent increase in traffic during the week of July 23. Eight hundred forty-nine thousand unique visitors accessed the site on July 28 alone.

FTC Delivers Views on Profiling
The Federal Trade Commission has released the second part of its report on profiling by online advertisers. The Commission was most impressed with Network Advertising Initiative's self-regulatory principles designed to protect consumer privacy and still conduct successful profiling. The NAI is a coalition of nine online advertising networks. The four main points of their principles are notice, choice, access and security. Consumers should be notified of the profiling practices of websites and will be given the option not to participate. Consumers will have access to any information that is personally identifiable, and all data will be kept private to the advertisers themselves. Consumers will have to "opt-in," or specifically notify advertisers if they can collect personally identifiable information. Likewise, though, consumers have to specifically opt out of having non-identifiable data collected as it is otherwise recorded automatically. Some say these Principles are not enough though, since they are self-regulatory. Some believe that actual legislation is called for. However, Federal Trade Commissioner Orson Swindle is adamantly opposed to profiling legislation. He says that rules should not be imposed until actual problems are identified, and that consumers should be educated on the benefits of profiling.

The Next Generation of WAP
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Wireless Access Protocol Forum are working to produce the "next-generation wireless data delivery specification" called WAP2.0. Peter King, chief architect at, the WAP browser provider, says that "the next-generation WAP specification will essentially converge WAP protocols with Internet standards." WAP's overseas competitor, Japanese NTT Docomo Inc's I-mode, threatens to dominate with over 9.2 million subscribers in Japan alone. Some fear the I-mode will smother WAP seeing as its users outnumber WAP's by more than half worldwide, but most experts believe that WAP is too popular in Europe and the U.S for this to happen.