For years, sceptics have derided two neo-Marxist bromides of the new economy: 'content wants to be free' and 'your community is your content'.
They should take a hard look at the wildly popular Napster web site (www.napster.com), where both principles prevail with a vengeance ... and with ominous implications for the future security of all digital intellectual property.
Napster's site is deceptively blank: just a few plainly designed buttons and an invitation to download its ingenious software application, which lets users freely swap popular music, in the form of MP3 files, with other web surfers anywhere in the world - and without paying artists any royalties to obtain the music.
Napster has seen its loyal membership throng into the millions. A recent survey reported that three-quarters of all US college students visit Napster each month. To build its brand, piggyback-style, on this network of communal graft, the Napster site is moving quickly to roll out a full line of additional music community services.
The Napster phenomenon rightly alarms analysts far beyond the music biz, because its software application can be modified to allow unrestrained, and perhaps untraceable, swapping of any kind of digital content or product (eg, other software) across the web. Suddenly, shoppers have the back-door key to your store. Sleep tight.
Hunter Madsen email@example.com.