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Napster was a file-sharing service founded by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker that operated between June 1999 and July 2001.
It was an innovative project by Fanning to create an independent peer-to-peer file sharing service. When launched it allowed people to easily share their MP3 files (music) with other participants. It was followed by many other decentralized projects that used Napster's P2P file-sharing example, such as Gnutella, Freenet, BearShare, Soulseek, AudioGalaxy, LimeWire, Scour, Kazaa, and Grokster.
Napster and other services were shut down by court order for copyright infringement after strong legal actions against them from the record industry.
The Napster brand survived after the company's assets were liquidated and purchased by other companies through bankruptcy proceedings. Napster became a set of three music-focused online services and was acquired by Roxio. In its second incarnation, Napster became an online music store until it was acquired by Rhapsody from Best Buy in 2011.
But why was it called Napster? Shawn Fanning joined a hacker chat to share his ideas and used the handle Napster. That was a name given to him by a junior high school basketball rival because of his nappy hair. In that hacker group, he connected with Parker and they started on the file-sharing network which would be given the nickname.