When Napster was shut down last summer, millions of Internet-equipped music fans panicked. With the infamous file-swapping service out of commission, were they doomed to stand in the music store and don unsanitary shared headphones whenever they wanted to preview the latest CDs? Worse, by forgoing a long wait at the listening station, would they risk bringing home a dud of a disc?
Users needn’t have worried because there are alternatives that fill Napster’s shoes — albeit with varying degrees of success. Check them out for yourself; all are available at no charge from Download.com.
KaZaA Media Desktop
A front-runner among file swappers, KaZaA takes file sharing to a new level of sophistication. While Napster allowed users to share only music with each other, KaZaA also lets you swap video (including still-in-the-theatres movies), images and software.
The only drawback is that, when you download KaZaA, you might unwittingly download Spyware along with it. Spyware keeps track of your Web surfing and targets you with advertising based on the sites you visit most.
It’s a nuisance but not a complete deterrent, and if you’re sharp you can avoid it altogether: using the onscreen prompts, simply uncheck the Spyware components when you install KaZaA. Rating: speed — A-, selection — A+, privacy — C
Morpheus Preview Edition
You’ll find plenty of shared music, video and software files. But downloading them may require the patience of Job. Rating: speed — C, selection — B, privacy — B
This software’s strong point is speed. Plus it has no Spyware and doesn’t bother you with pop-up ads. The one limitation is it allows you to share music files only. Rating: speed — A-, selection — B, privacy — A.
Not as fast as Blubster and less user-friendly, but WinMx allows you to download video and software files as well as music. Rating: speed — B, selection — B+, privacy — A