Monday, 27 September 2010

The Social Headache

I know I've talked far too much about the genesis of David Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Now that the movie is coming out in 2 weeks I'm pretty certain the film will be unable to measure up to the brilliance I've reserved for it in my head. Still, there are a few films coming out that are either about the phenomena of social networking like Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman's demented CATFISH (voted TIME magazine's most anticipated film of this autumn), or about landmark internet discoveries such as Groundswell Productions adaptation of Googled: The End of the World As We Know it. One of the most curious aspects about these movie treatments of geekdom is the casting opportunities it presents. I'm sure that Shawn Parker- former president of Facebook and co-founder of Napster- never thought that Justin Timberlake will be playing him in a major prestige film tipped for serious awards recognition. But that's exactly what has happened.

We're living in really interesting times and have been ever since the internet became a populist force 15 years ago. In that short time it's changed the lives of everyone and the means by which we access information, socialise and entertain ourselves. When Shawn Parker and Shawn Fanning developed Napster in 1999 we all discovered we were suddenly able to download every song in the world at absolutely no cost. Napster shook the music industry in a profound way; a way it really didn't see coming and has never recovered from. Despite a slow start, the last decade has seen entertainment industries fight tooth and nail to re-educate consumers to the virtues of paying for the music and movies they download. Their efforts have been earnest, desperate to try and reform a generation before they become accustomed to the notion of music being something you simply smash and grab. Feargal Sharkey has renounced his former life as an awkward punk from Derry who sang about wanking in his bedroom, to now spending his time excoriating Britain about the moral failings of downloading illegally. In his role as Head of UK Music, Sharkey has become the voice of a music industry attempting to save itself from extinction. Too bad none of them saw the launch of MULVE coming last weekend. Mulve is without a doubt the biggest threat to the music industry in a decade. Just when it thought things couldn't get much worse it's all gone totally tits-up. Mulve has emerged offering users millions of tracks to download for free. A Mulve representative said, "Without giving too much away, I can tell you that we are obviously not a P2P client and in fact we don't search open FTPs. Instead, we directly connect to a few other servers overseas (most probably in Russia) which store the music. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal which these are." Mulve allows users to search the web for a song and download it to their computer whilst staying completely anonymous. Mulve is never fully a part of your computer as once downloaded it stays in limbo where you can use it but nobody can track the fact you have it. The program is completely free. It has been tested for viruses and is an entirely innocuous application.

It's too early to tell what legacy Mulve will leave. (Producers are advised to hold off from optioning Mulve's life story just yet.) At a time when most internet phenomena's demand you to register and join their network of followers, Mulve requires no membership and has no sense of feigned community. It's almost as if the makers of Mulve have stuck two fingers up at everything most internet entrepreneurs are precious about. It's a breath of fresh air: a type of fresh air Feargal Sharkey must be choking on right now.

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