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Napster loses fans

Napster use across the globe is declining in numbers while other music applications are rising in popularity, according to a new report.

Napster usage worldwide has taken a nosedive as new file-sharing alternatives are climbing the charts, according to a new report that confirms what many former users of the beleaguered service realized long ago.

In 14 leading wired countries, the total time spent using Napster plunged 65 percent among home consumers, from 6.3 billion minutes in February to 2.2 billion minutes in June, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. The New York City-based research firm added that the number of Napster users declined 31 percent, from 26.4 million to 18.3 million over the same period.

While the popular file-sharing program is losing fans worldwide, the report found that several new alternatives are hitting the radar screen among music fans in the United States as Napster's legal battle with the record industry continues. Such alternatives include Bodetella, Audiogalaxy and iMesh.

On Wednesday, Napster received a short reprieve from a federal appeals court, which said the company can temporarily restart its song-swapping service online. While Napster fans can expect to test a free version of the software soon before it becomes a paid service, some have already switched to alternatives that are still free of charge as well as free of any legal tangles.

"The next wave is coming around very rapidly," said Mark Mooradian, vice president and senior analyst at Jupiter. "The next Napster will look more like a multi-headed beast than one single entity."

Mooradian said while the report provides a window to the expected drop-off of Napster, the audience that Napster was able to create back in the day is probably not going to evolve in the same way. He said the audience is going to be fragmented among a number of different services that are all vying to do the same thing.

Jupiter said Bodetella, a client designed for the Gnutella network, hit the top of the charts with about 1 million visitors between January and May. Austin, Texas-based Audiogalaxy trailed with 978,000 consumers in May, an increase of 78 percent from March. Israel-based iMesh had 474,000 visitors, up 11 percent from April. Other music applications that trailed include LimeWire, BearShare and Napigator.

Jupiter said its figures were based on more than 85 percent of the worldwide online population in countries such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.