Written by Stan Schroeder
At the beginning, everyone thought everything on the Internet is going to be free, forever.
Right now, the net is being constantly monitored, people are getting arrested for even thinking about piracy, DRM is preventing us from sharing stuff with friends, and web sites and services are getting closed down on a daily basis. The last few weeks have been no different: Microsoft wants to nail Linux for infringing patents (hey, they can look at Linux code, but no one can look at their code. See the problem there?), Imeem is being sued by Warner Music Group for copyright infringement, while YouTube gets sued, well, every damn day.
Unfortunately, people are slowly accepting the fact that some cool things are gone- and they’re not coming back, because someone somewhere needs to make more money. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the things that were taken from us.
OLGA, or OnLine Guitar Archive, was one of those cool places on the Internet where you could find anything on a particular subject; in this case, guitar tablatures. But, I guess the sales from guitar tablatures were so big that copyright owners had to shut them down, too. Most of the guitar tablatures on the site were done by the users; but that obviously doesn’t matter much. OLGA had ups and downs since then, and it’s currently offline again, while guitar tabs can be found scattered across many smaller site, some of which you can find here.
The original Napster
Remember those days? One guy got the idea of making software which enables you to share your files with others. Hey, what a great idea! Now I can share my music with my friends, and find out about new cool music!
Well, that one didn’t last long. The RIAA came down at Napster hard, and the service got shut down. Sharing was not a good thing, unless you own the copyright, we were told. Well, the problem is that most people don’t have the copyright rights to share anything, so sharing as a concept is something the lawyers and copyright owners would like to prohibit. In any case, today’s Napster is but a shadow of the original one, while us oldtimers who still remember the golden days can only long for the time when sharing was OK.
If you were European and you needed a hard to find gadget from the Far East, you went to Lik-Sang; that was the thing to do. Some of these gadgets never show up in European shops, and some are months late. Lik-Sang.com was a popular gaming retailer from Hong Kong which specialized in getting PSP consoles from Asia to Europe. Jumping to the rescue of poor consumers who might electrify themselves with these gadgets – or at least that’s what they said – Sony did everything in their power to shut Lik-Sang down. And shut down it was.
Instead of cool Japanese gadgets, the site now sports only an ugly “we’re forced to shut down” notice. Gee, thanks a lot, Sony.
Fonpods was a service that offered free podcast listening over the phone. For some reason, this allegedly cost the telecommunications industry “millions” (back then they didn’t yet invent billions and trillions, hence the modest numbers), so the service was shut down. Ok, we can understand why they went after Allfreecalls.net (which is, btw, online again) and FreeConferenceCall.com, but podcasts? Millions, they say.
Grokster, i2hub, WinMX?
If the US were the only country in the world, p2p would probably be only a theoretical concept. Grokster, i2hub, WinMX, and everyone else within the grasp of US laws and regulations, went down, never to come back. Grokster’s current page gives you a nice overview with the current state of affairs on the Internet with this sentence:
“YOUR IP ADDRESS IS xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx AND HAS BEEN LOGGED.
Don’t think you can’t get caught. You are not anonymous.”
Caught doing what? Writing an article for Mashable? Does even visiting a web site with nothing on it except a (ugly one, we might add) takedown notice, constitute some felony? Hey, I know where you live, too.
BTW, eMule is still live. Eat that, RIAA.
Hey, but SuprNova was full of illegal stuff, you cry in disbelief! Well, BitTorrent sites usually only host trackers and not the files themselves. If you think all sites for sharing anything should be shut down, think about YouTube and the current lawsuits against it, and ask yourself: what’s the difference? BitTorrent sites and P2P sites and sites like YouTube are tools. Someone will always use them to upload copyrighted material. And guess what, if you shut them down, they’ll find a new tool to do it.
MP3.com was, in fact, perfectly legal, and it wasn’t directly shut down by anyone. It was a service where lesser known bands could upload their music and promote themselves, communicating with the community directly. It had a huge archive of music. In 2000, the owners started a new service – My.MP3.com – which enabled users to register CDs they legally own and make online copies on MP3.com’s servers. Although this about as legit as you can get, the record industry managed to sue them (!) and win (!?), and MP3.com had to settle the lawsuit, paying 200 million dollars in damages, which turned out to be a blow from which they would never recover.
And then, Vivendi bought the service; didn’t know what to do with it, and resold it to CNET, which bought the MP3.com domain. Not the archive; they didn’t care about the archive, neither the users. They bought only the domain, and started a nice and dandy online music sales operation. The user archive was on the verge of deletion, but Trusonic took over and started GarageBand, which still lives on today. The archive, thus, isn’t gone, but the original flare of MP3.com, which was a huge site in the dot-com era, has disappeared. Luckily, MySpace continued pretty much where MP3.com left off, becoming a new popular vessel for promoting music.
SingingFish was a cool audio video search engine, and users loved it because of its ability to find very rare tracks. It was acquired by AOL in 2003, which took it under its wing and did?nothing. They integrated parts of it into their own site, and they let the site die out, wiping it completely in February 2007, without notice or even a “we’re sorry” note to the users. A relatively small but disappointed group of users still claim that AOL’s search isn’t as good as SingingFish, but no one listens. Except us, of course. But we can only write about it.
(the original) Alexaholic
Well, I know what you’re thinking: it’s still there, right? Actually, the Alexaholic domain name is now held by Amazon (Alexa), and the original service that resided there is now known as Statsaholic. And, while it is in fact still live and operational, it’s bruised and battered from all the C & D letters it received, followed by a lawsuit, and finally received another blow when Alexa started insisting that everyone (except them) can only use the crappy version of their stat graphs. This, among other things, means that you can now only compare three sites at a time, instead of five as it were before. Thus, we mention Alexaholic/Statsaholic – although it doesn’t fully belong to this group – to show how sometimes a bigco need not kill the little company dead; it’s enough to cripple it enough to make it harmless.
Pandora (for international users)
Sure, if you’re living in the USA, Pandora works just fine. But, for the rest of the world (since the 14th of May, that also includes Canada), Pandora’s site is one ugly notice which says: sorry, we can’t serve music to you any more. Reason? Legal complications in negotiating the rights with international copyright holders.
But, that’s nothing; if the RIAA manages to pass that new Internet radio bill, almost all services that stream music over the Internet will be forced to shut down. Check out Savenetradio to see what you can do about it.