A peer-to-peer filesharing client.
Peer to peer services operate by allowing other users to access files on a specially portioned off area of a person's hard drive, their share folder. The so called peer-to-peer client ia a piece of software that searches and compiles various indices of content sontained on the shared areas of everybody who looks on them.
Napster was by far the most useable of any of these servces because it hadf central servers which naturally optimised the whole process of searching and downloading immensely. However, thanks to a legal decision, peer-topeer networls which used central servers became illegal: If stolne copyright material passes through your server, you are technically handling stolen good, although the interpretation of this law has been subjected to harsh criticism.
Nowadays, a new breed of eer-to-peer service has evolved. It is serverless, for the most part, ith certain machines functioning as nodes on a temporary basis. They are more accurately peer-to-peer than napster was, but unfrtunately, they are also far more unreliable.
Napster has since been reborn as a pay-per-download service. However, it has proven unpopular, partly due to the increasing popularity of serverless networks, but also thanks to the influence of competing legal networks, including the omnipresent Itunes.
Technically, Napster and it's fellows don't have to be used to share music. any kind of file could be shared. But this has evolved into their primary use.
The legality of file sharing is clear cut, unfortunately. sharing music files is illedal. Whether or not it is moral is a matter of debate, and there and eben much hot air between the RIAA and some smaller music distributors. The future of file-sharing and MP3's as legal services or otherwise is uncertain. NOe thign, however, is certain, the actual technologies go from strength to strength, becoming increasingly decentralised until it's impossible to combat them.
There you go. If you're looking for a more or less accurate layman's description of Napster and fileshairng, there you go. To sample some of the debate, see everybody else's posts for this entry.
Napster was a peer-to-peernetwork
Napster was a P2P network
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