NAPSTER founders, Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, have started hiring developers to create their latest venture, Airtime, which aims to make video chatting ‘social’.
Six months since it was first mentioned, details about the duo’s new venture remain scant, but the start-up now has a website on which it describes itself as a “live social video company”, with a small team who “share a passion for using latest video technology.
Parker and Fanning, who both rose to fame after creating the ground-breaking music filesharing site sharing Napster in 1999, have said Airtime has been inspired by Chatroulette, and the way it allowed random people to communicate by video chat.
Airtime, Fanning said last October, would build on this type of communication and “smash people together” using video chat and social networks.
The company, which has $8m (£5m) backing from US actor Ashton Kutcher, Black Eyed Peas musician Will.i.am and Justin Bieber’s agent Scott Braun, now has a Facebook sign-up button for early access and is hiring for engineers.
In the late nineties, a 19 year-old Fanning created the Napster software which allowed people to exchange MP3 files on the web for free. He worked with Parker to create the service, who subsequently became Facebook’s first president and a major shareholder. Parker’s story became famous after Justin Timberlake played him in the US blockbuster, The Social Network.
However, after the music industry and artists collectively launched several major legal cases against the start-up, it was forced to shut down in 2001.
Napster inspired a series of other similar services, such as LimeWire and Kazaa, which allowed people to illegally download music for free and share it with their friends. However, they too faced a series of lawsuits which brought their companies to an end.
Napster came back on to the digital music scene in 2003, but as a shadow of its former disruptive self, having repositioned itself as a legal music download service.
BestBuy then bought the service, from then owner Roxio in a deal estimated to have been worth $121m, which in turn then sold it onto to digital music subscription service Rhapsody.
The digital music market has become more and more competitive, especially after streaming services, such as Spotify (in which Parker is an investor), have become popular.
A plethora of digital music services have launched in the UK in the last few years, including Deezer and We7.