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Napster Filters Cost It 20% of Its Users in March

April 26, 2001|JON HEALEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Napster Inc., the besieged online song-swapping service, lost about 20% of its users after it started deterring searches for hit songs from major record companies, according to research by Jupiter Media Metrix.

Even so, Napster remains one of the most popular destinations on the Internet.

The survey by Jupiter, a technology research and consulting firm, also found a sharp increase in activity at two other sites offering file-sharing software, BearShare and Aimster.

Analyst Dannielle Romano of Jupiter said that despite the drop 18% of U.S. Internet users visited Napster's Web site or used its music-sharing system in March. "That's still huge," she said.

Napster usage grew swiftly in 2000 and early this year after the major record labels and music publishers sued for copyright infringement.

At its peak in February, Napster's file-sharing system and Web site attracted 17 million users in the U.S., or almost 20% of those who went online that month. Of that number, 15.2 million logged on to the Napster system, where users can download songs from one another's computers.

On March 4, Napster started trying to block users from searching for songs whose copyrights were claimed by the major record labels and music publishers.

By the end of March, Jupiter's research found, about 3 million fewer people had logged on to the Napster system than in the previous month. Romano said the main factor was the "shrinking breadth of content" available because of the filters Napster had installed.

While Napster was losing users in March, Jupiter's survey estimated that BearShare.com had climbed to 520,000 visitors and Aimster.com had grown to nearly 300,000.

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