the real reason Napster is revolutionary

It’s the consumer experience, stupid. (with apologies to Mark Hurst). a. Go their site. It’s easy to download […]

It’s the consumer experience, stupid. (with apologies to Mark Hurst).

a. Go their site. It’s easy to download Napster. No painful registration screens (they get that information later, after you’ve committed). No hiding of the links users want the most (it’s right at the top: download Napster, tour Napster). Last time I was on Adobe’s site I had a hard time just finding where to download products, much less finding the product I wanted most: acrobat reader.

b. Install Napster (go ahead, I dare ya!) This is the best installation of a software program I have experienced in a long time. My favorite part is during configuration. One of the choices on connection speed is “I don’t know” and they let you skip the geek talk in a way that suggests not knowing how Napster works will not impede enjoyment of it. And why should you have to know about proxy-servers to listen to music?

c. As part of configuration Napster asks you if you’d like to share music with the Napster community, then searches and shares the files for you. This is what keeps Napster valuable. Each song a user shares makes it a little more likely that a song another user is searching for will be found. If you used Napster to search for Metallica songs and never found any, you’d stop using Napster.

A problem with Gnutella— the other popular P2P file swapping software– is that Gnutella users tend to be borrowers rather than sharers (see an article on the study). I suspect this is because how Gnutella is designed: I still haven’t figured out how to share a song via Gnutella. Open source software is notoriously hard to use, probably because software engineers are rarely interface designers and open source is a pure engineering play. Without people sharing songs as well as downloading them, the service isn’t valuable. And if people can’t figure out *how* to share songs… .

Everyone is talking how Napster has revolutionized the internet via P2P, or by galvanizing the music industry to finally use the internet as a music delivery channel, but I have yet to see anyone point out the revolution wouldn’t have come if Napster was as hard to use as Gnutella. Napster had to be easy to use to gain wide use to gain value.
(what use would a telephone be if you were the only one in the world who owned one?).

And then the revolution could begin.