Shawn Fanning along with friend Sean Parker first released the original Napster on June 1, 1999 while Fanning was attending Northeastern University in Boston. Fanning wanted an easier method of finding music than by searching IRC or Lycos. John Fanning of Hull, Massachusetts, who is Shawn’s uncle, struck an agreement which gave Shawn 30% control of the company, with the rest going to his uncle. Napster began to build an office and executive team in San Mateo, California, in September of 1999. Napster was the first of the massively popular peer-to-peer file sharing systems. Although there were already media which facilitated the sharing of files across the Internet, such as IRC, Hotline, and USENET, Napster specialized exclusively in music in the form of MP3 files and presented a user-friendly interface.
The result was a system whose popularity generated an enormous selection of music to download. Irrespective of these justifications, many other users simply enjoyed trading and downloading music for free. With the files obtained through Napster, people frequently made their own compilation albums on recordable CDs, without paying any royalties to the copyright holder.
High-speed networks in college dormitories became overloaded, with as much as 80% of external network traffic consisting of MP3 file transfers. Many colleges blocked its use for this reason, even before concerns about liability for facilitating copyright violations on campus. As a partial solution to this issue, Napster was used as a test case for the Abilene Network, the educational Internet backbone.