If you had an internet connection in 1999, chances are you used Napster.
If you want to relive those glory days, check out open-source music streaming alternative Peer.fm. Modeled after the classic music download service, until last week Peer.fm was called Napster.fm, but creator Ryan Lester rechristened the company since Rhapsody owns the Napster brand.
Lester, discussing Peer.fm as a potentially strong international competitor for streaming services like Spotify that have extremely limited geographical coverage, told TechCrunch that 64% of users are not located in the United States. . After launching just last week, the site has already received 100,000 visitors, and 59,000 users actually tested the service.
According to Lester, who is currently a student at Carnegie Mellon University and has worked for the space-transport company SpaceX, the 1,500 registered users on Peer.fm are enjoying free access to music, but also appreciate the uniqueness of music playlists that sync with friends' playlists in real time, and other social elements that may become a bigger hook for users as the service grows.
Lester's Peer.fm acquires the streaming music from "minor inefficiencies in YouTube's piracy-detection system," as the About page describes. Its growing and surprisingly efficient library and media player allow users to search and queue up songs, share songs with friends, and browse libraries like one could in old-school Napster.
Lester is currently working on language localization, which means translating the service and its free features for non-English speakers. Many sites consider this a major priority as Internet access grows in other countries. Lester and Peer.fm have the advantage of being an open-source project, which allows other contributors to help Lester build features and contribute to the service's growth.
Like the original Napster, Lester isn't paying for the music available for streaming, so it may just be a matter of time before the cease-and-desist lawsuits arrive. Still, open-source technology continues to expand into many fields that have previously been proprietary. Even if Peer.fm gets shut down, because it's built on an open-source code base, somebody else could easily start a copycat service up again.
And until he's sued by every major artist and music company, it seems that Lester is enjoying himself with this project, as this FAQ page suggests: