When MP3s first appeared in the music marketplace, the majority of people had little use for them. Back then the players weren't popular as they had only a small data storage capacity and short battery lives. Despite this general unpopularity, some insightful computer users glimpsed the potential of these devices, noticing that though the files were far smaller than uncompressed .wav files, there was no difference in the all-important sound quality.
Soon people in the know began converting their CD collections into MP3s. This allowed users gain fast access to a personal music library that could be stored on a personal computer, and helped them to create unique play lists incorporating their favorite tracks from a variety of albums. Talk about giving music a new lease of life!
But it was only a matter of time before someone made the connection, literally, to a friend's computer, and realized that these MP3 files could be shared. Pretty soon increasing numbers of people were doing the same thing, and a host of file sharing networks sprang up, with students availing of their universities' high-speed Internet connections to share their files quickly. After a short time large numbers of files had become generally available, meaning that any track you wanted could probably be found without too much trouble.
This new trend caused a great deal of alarm at record companies, as it posed an enormous threat to the music sales that were their lifeblood. But while these companies rushed into action by filing legal proceedings against the sharing networks and their users, others saw an opportunity too powerful to resist. Seeing a great future in online music distribution, these companies established their own download sites, where people could access music for a fee. These sites proliferated, allowing people to download MP3s by their favorite artists at a price comparable to that of a more traditional CD. The flexibility of the system was an intrinsic part of its success, as it allowed people to customize their music choices by downloading a whole album, or just some select tracks.
These days, as MP3 players gain the recognition they deserve, more and more people are purchasing music online. If you are a novice MP3 enthusiast, however, you should bear in mind that certain online stores do not support certain music players ñ music, for example, downloaded from iTunes may not be compatible with your Creative Zen player, while Napster's music won't play on an iPod. Avoid this frustration by always reading the small print before you download.