NORFOLK, Va. — Today, streaming music services have made it easier than ever to access any song, anywhere. But some of you may remember what it was like driving to the music store to buy a CD or even a cassette tape.
That old way of accessing music changed virtually overnight nearly 25 years ago. It was a music revolution that all started with one company.
Before 1999, the idea of sitting at your computer, typing in any song, and immediately being able to download it for free was unfathomable. But that is exactly what Napster offered users.
It was the first mainstream peer-to-peer digital audio-sharing application that, at its peak, had 80 million registered users.
We were used to the effort, the cost, and the waiting associated with buying music in the store. Napster not only gave us access to all of that with a couple of clicks, but you could also find unreleased music, concert bootlegs, and a lot more.
"MP3" soon became part of our vernacular and as our new -- and free -- digital libraries grew, so did frustration from record labels who were losing significant sales to the service.
Lawsuits were launched at the company, including one from heavy metal band Metallica, that accused Napster of copyright infringement.
Following a major ruling against the company in court, Napster was forced to shut down its service in 2001.
But the genie was out of the bottle and the damage -- or if you want to call it, reform -- had already happened.
There was no going back to the old way of accessing our favorite music.