Sick of being a minnow in a small pond, Napster has launched a web-based version of its digital music service that for the first time allows users to listen to songs without having to download special software.
The service works on newer versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox, which means the service can now work on most internet-enabled devices, including those running on Linux and OS X. Previously, users needed applications written for Windows, some handheld media players and a handful of other mobile devices.
Even after today's move, Napster's offerings still won't play on an iPod, so it's hard to see the change as much more than an incremental development. Still, when you live in the shadow of iTunes - as Napster and every other digital music service does - it can only be a good thing to make your offerings more accessible.
The new service also makes it easier to integrate Napster into social networking destinations and other types of websites. Users who prefer to have more advanced functionality, such as the ability to burn CDs, will still have to use Napster's client software, which is available only for Windows PCs.
The new service seems aimed at preparing for a day when Apple unshackles its offerings from onerous digital rights management technology, which makes it impossible to play songs on anything other than a iTunes or an iPod.
By the end of 2008, naked MP3s will become the standard among major music companies and retailers, Christopher Allen, Napster's chief operating officer, told Reuters. ®