Digital distribution does not have a very long history. In-fact it began proliferating in the late 1990s and began anchoring its roots first in the music industry. With the popularity of internet, users began to seek out methods to share content online. Advent of file sharing software was a new turning point which catapulted its development and henceforth digital download of music and videos was easily made possible. Unauthorized file sharing was a phenomenon that paved way to its development. The entire system was a clear malpractice as copyrighted content outside the realm of free usage also was circulating in abundance. This system involves digital downloading of compressed files containing music, cinema or video games from internet in to the PC. These files can then be stored in the Pc or on a CD.
Over the past five years digital distribution has developed into a new communication service that has set platform for downloading digital files into any computing device enabling users to buy music online, store them in to the PC or CD, manage, and play music files, and also to copy, share, redistribute, and to modify them. The digital distribution of movies, video games and e-books followed suit, but much later, video games are keeping pace with this development now.
We can trace back the development of digital distribution to the gaining popularity of P2P networks. As a result of which a digital music value chain began taking shape that comprised of file sharing software, PCs, connectivity to Internet, MP3 players, and juke box software along with a vast community of users who provide and use this digital content.
Due to advancement of audio compression technology, music files were able to be effectively downloaded. The end result was formation of File sharing communities that gained advantage from high speed internet connectivity, huge data storage capabilities of PCs & back up devices and powerful processing technology that allowed ripping and burning of CDs leading to vigorous growth of this phenomenon. Downloading sites like MP3.com allowed upload of ripped music files and easy download of such files by end users. As the community grew this system became less viable and soon a new software known as Napster was introduced by Shawn Fanning in late 1999. It marked a new era that circumvent all the previous shortcomings. This new P2P software enabled users to exchange data directly between their PCs without the need of an intermediary. It provided quick and easy accessibility to music stored on user’s PC. This mode of data exchange soon paved way for unfair practice.
As it gained access to unauthorized files and violated copyrights, RIAA intervened and held these websites responsible for piracy and Napster along with MP3 websites were closed down. As a result authorized services, some that are centered on devices and others around certain software emerged. The device centric service model became exclusive domain of Apples iTunes Music Store (iTMS) and music supported by Windows Media Player (WMP) sold through online music stores laid the development of software enabled service.
Apple iTunes is the most popular online music and movie store. Being the number one online music vendor, it holds 80% market share in US alone and 70% of world wide digital music sales. By 2010 it has sold over 10 billion songs. Similarly computer game downloading sites like Steam and E-book digital distributers like Kindle has already gained leverage in the market. Steam provides over 1000 video games to choose from that can be directly downloaded in to you PC at an affordable price. Amazon’s Kindle e-book readers have given reading a new dimension. It’s a portable e-book reader developed by Amazon and allows the user to purchase, download and read e-books, magazines and news papers.