I tried to illegally download music from the websites I used on dial-up Internet

Music was the perfect form of media to kick-start the file sharing craze in the 1990s.

With the MP3, songs could be compressed into 3MB files – which meant quick downloads, even though home Internet connections were typically supplied through 56kbps dial-up modems.

Telkom provided an after-hours package at the time that let you make calls for as long as you wanted for a maximum of R7.

Provided you did not get disconnected, you could enjoy uncapped Internet at 56kbps from 19:00 on Friday until 06:59 on Monday.

Here’s an audio clip for our trip down memory lane, as we take a look at the biggest music sharing sites of recent times.


The grandfather of file sharing was Napster.

Launched in 1999 and shut down in 2001, Napster turned the music industry on its head.

Roxio acquired Napster and turned it into a legitimate digital music store, but eventually sold it to Best Buy in September 2008, which sold it to Rhapsody.

As of July 2016, Rhapsody has phased out its brand, and its music streaming service is now known internationally as Napster.

Napster unavailable in your region


Audiogalaxy was launched before Napster, but was largely discovered after Napster closed in 2001. Audiogalaxy eventually shut down in 2002.

From around 2002 to 2010, the Audiogalaxy website promoted Rhapsody’s subscription music service.

In its final form, Audiogalaxy was a personal music media server – which let you stream music from your Internet-connected computer to another device, such as a smartphone or workplace PC.

It was completely shut down in 2013.



Not that long ago, you could buy cap for your ADSL connection for general Internet use, or a local-only cap that could only be used to access services within South Africa.

Several ADSL accounts even offered unlimited local downloading after your cap was finished.

The launch of affordable uncapped ADSL in South Africa made local-only bandwidth irrelevant, and as a result our local Direct Connect (DC) network hubs disappeared.

You can still find DC++ hubs on large closed networks, such as campus local area networks, but their existence is typically not advertised to the outside world.

PeerWeb DC++


Although Napster and Audiogalaxy met their demise a few years after launching, the idea of peer-to-peer networking gave rise to several file sharing protocols.

Before BitTorrent became the main standard for file sharing, there were a number of protocols to choose from.

Gnutella was one of these, and Limewire was one of its popular clients.

It lives on in projects like gtk-gnutella and WireShare, but widespread support for the protocol has disappeared.



Although the eDonkey2000 client is no longer in development, the eDonkey Network is alive – with several replacement clients available.

Aqua’s seminal classic “Barbie Girl” was available for download through the network.

aMule - Aqua Barbie Girl


Attempts to download Kazaa Lite were met with warnings that the app contained malware.

Kazaa was a client for the FastTrack protocol, which appears to be all but defunct.



If Napster is the grandfather of filesharing, then the IRC direct client-to-client protocol is the great-grandfather.

Although “Barbie Girl” wasn’t available in the channels I frequented, the original Spice Girls hit Wannabe, was.

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I tried to illegally download music from the websites I used on dial-up Internet