In the early days of online music (prior to 1999), people shared songs via the following methods: FTP sites, web sites, chat rooms, and newsgroups. These early sharing methods weren’t much of a threat to the record industry, because they were essentially self-limiting. The FTP commands were difficult for nontechnical users to master, and the web sites often were limited to a small number of concurrent users. Chat rooms had similar limitations, including the fact that both users (the file source and the file recipient) had to be logged into the chat room at the same time. Newsgroup feeds took up a lot of Internet bandwidth, and many ISPs offered only a few of the thousands of newsgroups that were available.
The recording industry was witnessing the beginning of a revolution, but because of these obvious limitations they probably felt that they had the situation under control and that downloadable music was a containable threat. Then Napster arrived on the scene, turning the music industry upside down virtually overnight by creating a download method that was, at least then, completely new. Following are descriptions of the early filesharing methods and the centralized and distributed peer-to-peer methods that came later.