Who is Shawn Fanning?

Born under the sign of Sagittarius on the 22nd of November 1980, in Brockton, Massachusetts USA, Shawn Fanning is a 39-year-old Caucasian entrepreneur, computer scientist and programmer, and an angel investor. He is way better known and more frequently referred to across the worldwide media outlets as the developer of Napster – one of the world’s first peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing internet services. He has also enjoyed a number of other successes over the course of his sometimes lucrative programming career since 1998.

Early life: Keeping to himself

Shawn was raised apparently an only child where he was born, by his father Joe Rando and mother Coleen Fanning, though he also spent a lot of time with his uncle – at the time the owner of the website chess.net.

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He didn’t seem to be overly social as a child, mostly because his interests revolved around technology, meaning he used to spend a lot of time at home either playing games on, at the time, revolutionary gaming consoles, or learning about the way these devices function. Regarding education, Shawn attended an unspecified high school in his birthplace, from where he matriculated in 1998. Fanning then enrolled into Northeastern University in Boston, in his birth state, where he studied computer science for an unspecified, eventually dropping out due to thus-far unclarified reasons, though the consensus is that he didn’t think that he needed a degree, after a very successful start in business.

Career: A man ahead of his time

Shawn started working on his own software at the age of 18. In 1999 he released Napster onto the worldwide web – a peer-to-peer type of internet service for sharing media, most frequently songs encoded as MP3 files. The term ‘peer-to-peer’ refers to the fact that its users wouldn’t require a third party to host whatever they want to send to someone else, making the transfer of virtually anything completely private. His invention revolutionized the way people share music, as it essentially meant that one no longer needed to be next to their friend to show them a song, they were able to just send it.

Shawn Fanning

Shawn’s admirable achievement landed him on the front page of “Time” magazine on the 2nd of October 2002, but by that time Napster was already shut down because of legal issues related to copyright infringement by its users, leading companies in the music industry to press serious charges against Fanning.

The actual impact of Napster

As evidenced by an archived article of ISP-Planet from March 2000, Napster became so popular that in some universities approximately 60 percent of the internet traffic was being used up solely by this service. The very success of Fanning’s software was its downfall, as internet service providers and system administrators quickly took note of how much bandwidth just one single service was consuming on a national scale, which resulted in the US and the UK eventually blocking nationwide access to Napster.

The ban caused an outrage among younger generations, most notably students, while on the contrary prominent performers such as Dr Dre and members of the band Metallica took this issue to court, accusing Shawn of allowing unrestricted worldwide access to some of the music they hadn’t even published at the time. Fanning took some time to find a way to remedy the situation, and in 2001 told the district court that he would be able to block as much as 99.4 percent of copyrighted content transfers. However, legally that wasn’t good enough, and in July 2001 the service was shut down permanently.

Chasing Napster’s success

Shawn then launched Snocap in 2003, with some of his most important Napster associates at its core.

The goal of this business enterprise was to serve as a legitimate digital media distribution service, however, the negative publicity received through his previous work saw Fanning’s new creation greeted with suspicion, and the plan eventually failed, dissolving around 2008, at which point it was sold for a quick buck and acquired by social media website imeem.

At this point, Shawn had already been CEO of Rupture for a year, which was a networking tool designed to help gamers publish their profiles, and ease discourse between “World of Warcraft” players. Having acquired the service for $30 million, Electronic Arts fired Shawn and his other original colleagues in November 2009, so not long after he started-up the company Path.com, and the product was launched exactly one year later – the social networking app could be used for messaging and photo sharing, with initially up to a maximum of 50 friends, later raised to 150, and eventually completely removed.

Simultaneous success

In 2011 Shawn founded Airtime.com, and launched the app in 2012 – this time it was a video chat platform with a social network of its own. Though initially desktop-based, the app quickly evolved into a smartphone version as well, giving rise to OKHello in 2013, which eventually reached the top 10 social app group on the App Store. In May 2015 Shawn sold Path to South Korean Internet company Kakao for an unspecified amount,  and in 2016 it was briefly withdrawn from the market to be relaunched as a full-scope video chat mobile app, whose focus and specialty was allowing smaller groups of users to watch videos or listen to music together – the point of this feature was to make the contact on the app feel as realistic as it could ever get.

Path was ultimately terminated in October 2018, while Airtime remains fully operational nearing the start of 2020. This is what Shawn does today, and most likely his greatest source of income.

Love life: Difficult circumstances

Fanning’s love life is largely a mystery until the start of the 2010’s, at which point he is known to have unexpectedly had a child with Jessica Wigsmoen, whom he met at a friend’s party; their daughter Scarlett was born at some point in mid-2011. Around the start of 2012 Jessica started creating funding campaigns for herself and the child, claiming that Shawn hadn’t been paying his due child support for a while. This was, however, not very believable, as the public knew even then that Shawn was quite wealthy, thus without a reason to run into legal issues over minor monthly payments.

The suspicion directed at Jessica gave rise to an investigation, and in January 2014 it was reported by Valleywag that Shawn had indeed been paying child support, and in significant amounts at that. However, he hasn’t been romantically tied to Jessica since approximately the end of 2011, which could well be the reason for her spreading misinformation. His last known girlfriend is Jenni Ivey – a self-employed singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, California – it’s unclear whether they’re still together to this day.

What is Shawn Fanning’s net worth?

Shawn Fanning is reported by Wikipedia to have a net worth of over $120 million in late 2019. He draws most of his wealth from being an ingenious developer who has pushed out multiple market-changing services, primarily including Napster, and as of late definitely Airtime. It remains to be seen what kind of business plans he holds for the future, but on past performance they’re likely to be successful, regardless of their nature.

Author

Benjy is currently a reporter for BiographyPedia based in Adelaide, Australia. Prior to joining BiographyPedia in July 2019, he was a Bizarre TV reporter and theatre critic at TheSun. Benjy has also written for DailyMail and TMZ. Benjy studied journalism at Goldsmiths University of London, graduating in 2009. You can contact him at [email protected]

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