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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 14:27 GMT
The man behind Napster
Shawn Fanning, Napster founder
Napster's founder Shawn Fanning's future is assured
What most people find scary about Napster is not the fact that it could change the face of the music industry as we know it.

The truly frightening thing was that it was set up by a 19-year-old who dropped out of college and who has no formal computer training.

"When he didn't go back to school, it crushed me," Shawn Fanning's mother is reported to have said.

But Shawn's mother may now sleep easy at night - whatever happens to Napster, it seems likely that, with or without a college education, Shawn Fanning will never be short of a job offer.

The day-to-day running of the company may be shared with experienced business people, but the creative genius behind Napster is Fanning, who named the service after his high school nickname.

Sports fan

Shawn Fanning grew up in Massachussetts, living in Harwich during his high school years.

Up until 1996, Shawn's attention had focused on sports, playing baseball, basketball and tennis.

Then his uncle John Fanning gave him a computer and access to the internet.

He soon gave up these outdoor interests to concentrate on surfing the net.

"I gave up sports so I could spend more of my spare time at the computer learning about programming," he said in his testimony to the Senate Judicial Committee.

He started at Northeastern University in the fall of 1998 intending to major in computer science.

"Looking for a challenge beyond entry level courses, I started to start writing a Windows-based program on my own," he said.

He did not have to look far for inspiration, as his college roommate's perpetual gripe was about the unreliability of internet sites such as

"It was rooted out of frustration not only with, Lycos and, but also (the desire) to create a music community," is how he explains his interest in writing the code which led to the creation of Napster.

Leaving college

Soon, writing this code was taking all his mental energy.

"During the winter, I made the decision to leave - I found I couldn't concentrate on developing the program and deal with my classes and life on campus," he said.

His uncle and him set the company up in May 1999, with money raised from business angels (wealthy individuals who invest their money in new or growing businesses).

That summer, an early version of the software was available. Word of mouth spread quickly and soon Napster struck fear in the hearts of music industry executives worldwide.

The privately-held company now has 50 employees.

With the future of Napster now unclear, it may not be the company that makes Shawn Fanning's fortune.

But amid some press speculation that Fanning is working on an idea which will "outNapster" Napster, it appears clear that as far his future career is concerned, success is guaranteed.

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