The Napster Mirage

from the going-anywhere? dept

An article that takes a look at the concept of peer-to-peer as popularized by Napster, and now imitated by plenty of companies to see if anything is there. The article compares P2P to Push technology which had a similar level of hype behind it three years ago. Unfortunately, someone at ZD doesn’t want people to read the whole article and split it up into 5 different pages, with no option to piece the whole thing together, so if you want to read the whole thing, you need to keep clicking.

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Comments on “The Napster Mirage”

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Rainblk says:

Napster as reflection

Overall , I agree with your story .. C2C or your use of P2P , is not to going to
provide a wide spread foundation for storage and exchange of commercial
products. Why ? Because the average consumer isn’t going to pay for a file copied
from Uncle Joes computer, and without a sealed box to protect it from meddling,
it’s going to be meddled with, so it’s not ” new ” merchandise.

Most consumers are not recording egineers, or movie producers , or writers and
artists… heck, lots of them are fairly inexperienced at using their own machines. It
follows that most of them are not going to be doing a professional job at reproducing
the very works that are carried by these C2C, ( ehh, P2P ) networks. All of the
exisiting file sharing networks today bear this out. So without a sealed , unalterable
copy of professionally done ( insert whatever multimedia type file here ) available for
sale…why would anybody want to risk payment on an unknown quality file ?

On the other hand.. consumers are very good at, well , consuming. We are used to
sorting out hype, to climbing on the bandwagon, chasing fads and trends, spreading
the gospel about our favorite brands of everything from oatmeal to cars to beer to
entertainment. Especially entertainment. Whether it is the latest TV show, a Rock
and Roll Band or a particularly good Movie, real consumers advocating for the latest
thing is the surest way to volume sales.

This leads us to the crux of the problem for the R.I.A.A. , and the MPAA and a host
of other content publishers as well. They see a tremendous volume of material being
passed around and view each instance as a lost sale rather than what it really is :
Advertising. It’s consumers talking to each other about what is good. And talking in
a way that the Average Joe passes this type of information ,by sharing
enthusiactically, but often without all the right details.

Now, if you are selling that file, this is a tremedous problem because you’ve lost all
control of product quality , but in advertising,. so what ? Most word of mouth
product support is on the order of ” That movie is awesome ! ” or ” listen to this , it’s
great ! ” Rarely is it detailed or complete. More often the consumers desire is for
opinion, not fact. When was the last time you read a movie or band review that
started… ” and this is EXACTLY what happens… ” . You don’t read those type of
reviews because people don’t want the details, they want the flavor.

So how does this tie into the emergent , wide spread use of file sharing programs ?

Most of the downloadable content that is causing so much concern for copyright
holders is the flavor, not the details. Rather than digital masters , most are lo-fi
( compartively ), incomplete, or variably done copies of some other media, be it a
shaky camcorder or old an vinyl pressing with skips and pops. 14 year old computer
heads may be savvy enough to rip a few tracks from their favorite CD , but they
aren’t professional recording engineers, and the results show it. Shared files on these
networks are analogous to the copied cassette tapes, coffee break exchanges and
yard sale gems that are available everywhere in America.

Which brings us back to the “blackbox file “. Without a sealed verifiable, virus free,
high quality copy of the product, people are unlikely to get a copy from Uncle Joe
and send payment to World Music and Movie.Com. Nor is the Amway business
model likely to spread like wildfire among consumers on the net.

The Internet has brought some changes. While it is doubtful that file sharing utilities
have significantly increased the amount of entertaimnment sharing that has always
existed among consumers, it has made it easier to identify the type of sharing that is
the most popular. Take a look at the traditional used cd , tape and book stores, and
try to imagine cataloging the most popular sale items across the U.S., let alone North
America. In contrast, it’s easy to know who’s popular today, or still popular after all
these years. Fire up Napster, Scour Exchange, or Gnutella , or any of the other
C2C ( P2P ) programs for instant feedback.

The main benefit to be gained by companies utilizing file sharing programs in their
business models is not apt to be in distribution. I agree that is a mirage. Their
principal role is more likely to find wide acceptance in advertising.

Which is where I disagree with your defination of these programs as P2P, which
implies a technical equality. As consumer driven networks they will always retain the
inherent non-technical characteristics of the consumers who use them.

Napster et al, may be a mirage as a business model for distribution, but as an
advertising medium, it’s a nearly perfect reflection.

Rainblk says:

Re: Re: Napster as reflection

Mike.. Ummm, yes. Sorry about the confusion. My post was actually excerpted from an
email to the original story author.

I still believe that while Peer to Peer is an correct description of how file sharing networks work
from a technical viewpoint, Consumer to Consumer is a better description of specifically what
they are in terms of business models. IE.. their point isn’t the sale of the exchanged materials. ( Yes, Napster and Scour hope to change this, but Gnutella sure won’t . )

Right now the legislative powers are examining the issue of copyrights and fair use, with an eye
towards regulating, expanding or contracting the current interpertations of fair use. Users of these service utilities are constantly being indicted by industry executives as theives, scoundrels and pirates. The CEO of Seagrams even threw in the obligitory reference to drugs and child poronography in his little speech..

Unless a dedicated effort is made to assert the rights of consumers to exchange not for profit copies of mediafiles that they have aquired legally, this right is not likely to be championed by the companies which have competing interests, even if a true commercial model of a p2p distribution network can be developed.,1284,37614,00.html

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this.

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