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Was Napster or iTunes more influential?

The top few may be easy to name, but how would you round out the field? Read our picks and then decide for yourself.

Cheers to digital music and the services that helped develop the Internet into a juggernaut distribution format. Pictured is Lady Gaga at the Vevo launch party in 2009. Greg Sandoval/CNET

As Amazon, Google, and Apple appear to be leading digital music in the direction of the cloud, it seems a good time to look back at some of the most influential online music services of the past.

Some people might argue that the modern digital music era started with the launch of iTunes. Others will say the birth of Napster kicked it off. The truth is two years before Napster launched in 2000, there were plenty of companies jockeying for dominance in online CD sales as well as downloads.

They were competing in nascent Internet radio or trying to create audio standards and digital rights formats. The early pioneers included Amazon,, Liquid Audio, Artistdirect, CD Baby,, and RealAudio to name a few. Later on, a new wave of services followed the path blazed by Napster, which demonstrated the power of the Web to deliver digital music.

Some of them were file-sharing services like Napster, companies such as Kazaa, eDonkey, TorrentSpy, LimeWire, and Grokster. Others tried to sell music legally, such as Urge, Pressplay, MusicNet,Yahoo Music Unlimited, eMusic, Sony Connect, MSN Music, and the Zune Marketplace.

After them came Imeem, MySpace Music, Ruckus, Spotify, iLike, Lala, and a host of others. Most of these companies don't exist anymore, chased out of the sector by Apple's iTunes, digital music's reigning power for most of the past decade.

Scores of music services have come and gone. The slideshow below features some that left their mark.