In 1999 a person might theoretically have downloaded a free song or two using Napster, the free peer-to-peer file-sharing service created by Shawn Fanning. Enjoying the illicit yet seemingly harmless activity so much, the individual might have been able to set 50 songs to download before heading home from the office, and then, upon returning the next morning, he or she might have seen 25 or so full tracks and 5 partial ones (each bearing an inscrutable name like 2Shykaja?128k.mp3). Our hypothetical audio enthusiast might have engaged in this activity repeatedly, until major recording companies won a lawsuit against Napster, which shut down in 2001. Today Napster is a publicly traded company that offers legal music downloads and a subscription service; but a person might miss the early days of freewheeling MP3 anarchy--hypothetically, of course.
--Narasu Rebbapragada, Senior Associate Editor
What if you could create a streaming Internet library of all your music simply by briefly inserting each of your CDs into your PC to prove that you owned it? For a few months in 2000, you could--and I did. Then the music industry sued this nifty service out of business. I shed no tears when the original Napster got shut down, but the death of My.MP3.com hit me hard.
--Harry McCracken, Editor in Chief
I know that WebVan is widely considered a poster child for dot-com-era insanity, but I was a regular (and happy) customer of this Internet grocery shopping service. For an urban dweller with a full-time job and no supermarket within walking distance, WebVan was a dream come true, delivering boxloads of staples and luxuries at the hours of my choosing. I loved taking a virtual walk down its well-stocked aisles during my lunch break, clicking through my weekly shopping list in a matter of minutes. And though some former customers complained that the quality of the groceries deteriorated as WebVan declined, I rarely had a significant problem (though I do remember early on receiving DOA "live" Maine lobsters before the company figured out that its plastic packaging was suffocating them). Safeway is now trying to earn my patronage, but it will never inspire the same frisson.
--Denny Arar, Senior Editor
In the dot-com glory days, people were so busy tracking their IPO stock prices that they didn't have time to visit the dry cleaner. Purple Tie's service picked up, dry-cleaned, and delivered your clothes, and let you schedule the pickups and deliveries online. It was very reliable--at least in San Francisco--and did a great job, contributing to the wholesome atmosphere at PC World headquarters. The service had plans to expand to 28 metropolitan areas, but it ran out of money before it could catch on. A smaller outfit bought the assets of PurpleTie.com assets and now offers delivery service in communities south of San Francisco; it appears to be doing much better than its predecessor.
--Alan Stafford, Senior Writer