|Known for||early Napster employee, SNOCAP executive, imeem executive|
He is best known as an early employee and key technical contributor at the original Napster, the file-sharing service created by Shawn Fanning in 1999, and at SNOCAP, the digital rights and content management startup Fanning founded after Napster. He was also chief operating officer of imeem, which acquired SNOCAP in 2008.
Aydar's experiences working at Napster were documented in two books and one documentary film: Joseph Menn's definitive Napster biography, All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning's Napster, Steve Knopper's Appetite for Self Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age, and Alex Winter's film Downloaded.
Ali Aydar was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in Napoleon, Michigan. In high school, he ran a Bulletin Board System by the name of "Awesome Fred's BBS." After high school, he attended Carnegie Mellon University, where he majored in mathematics and computer science. While there, Aydar was a contributor to the Free Internet Chess Server, an open-source project that enabled people to play online chess for free. This experience led to Aydar co-founding online chess startup chess.net with John Fanning, the uncle of Napster creator Shawn Fanning, in 1996.
While working at chess.net, Aydar first met Fanning's then 15-year-old nephew, Shawn. In All the Rave, Joseph Menn notes that Shawn interned for chess.net in the summer of 1997, sleeping on a couch in the living room. That summer, Aydar and the other chess.net employees became close with the younger Fanning, who was just learning computer programming. Aydar bought Fanning his first book on programming in C++, the language he would use two years later to build the Napster file-sharing software.
After leaving chess.net, Aydar moved to Chicago, where he worked as a banker. In late 1998, Shawn Fanning contacted Aydar via instant messenger to tell him about a software application he was writing that would enable people to share music. Fanning was then a freshman at Northeastern University.
In August 1999, Aydar moved to California's Silicon Valley to work for a startup. Within weeks, he was recruited to join Napster. He joined in September 1999, becoming its first non-founding employee.
Initially, Aydar was an individual contributor to Napster's engineering team. Eventually, he moved into a management role as Napster's senior director of technology, where he was responsible for managing the development of Napster's next-generation legal service.
Aydar authored Napster’s search engine software, which supported the millions of search queries Napster users made every day. At that time, Napster was the fastest-growing application in the history of the Internet; at its peak, the service had over 85 million registered users and 2 million simultaneous users around the world. Aydar’s server software infrastructure successfully scaled to handle the exponential increase in Napster search queries, helping support Napster’s unprecedented growth.
In June 2003, Aydar joined Shawn Fanning, Jordan Mendelson and Ron Conway at SNOCAP, the digital rights and content management startup Fanning founded after Napster's collapse. A significant number of its employees were people who had worked for Napster; an August 2005 profile in TIME magazine noted that "27% of SNOCAP's employees are Napster veterans."
Aydar served as SNOCAP's chief operating officer from the company's inception through its acquisition by imeem in 2008, and for a year also served as its interim CEO. He co-invented SNOCAP's digital registry and MyStore technologies. While at SNOCAP, he also completed an MBA from the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley on a part-time basis.
Aydar joined imeem as part of its acquisition of SNOCAP in April 2008, and served as the company's chief operating officer. He was an early advisor to imeem, serving on its board of directors from 2003 until 2007. imeem was acquired by MySpace in December 2009.
Aydar serves as CEO of Sporcle.
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- Napster wounds the giant : Music : The Rocky Mountain News
- Exclusive Clip: Relive Napster's Big Break in the Documentary Downloaded | Underwire | Wired.com
- Banking on Snocap / After alienating music industry, Napster founder tries to help it - SFGate
- In Search Of Napster II - TIME
- Napster Meister - TIME
- Napster among fastest-growing Net technologies - CNET News
- The Free Juke Box - TIME
- "Testimony". Judiciary.senate.gov. 2010-07-08. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
- Sharing Music, Legally - TIME
- Ali Aydar | LinkedIn
- Imeem Confirms Snocap Acquisition | TechCrunch
- MySpace Music Acquires Shuttered Imeem Music Service | Wired Business | Wired.com
- Matt Ramme of Sporcle offers ‘mentally stimulating diversions’ - The Tartan Online
- MP3.com Q&A with SNOCAP COO, Ali Aydar
- Newsweek: YouTube's Copyright Crackdown: includes quotes from Aydar and discusses SNOCAP's technology
- San Francisco Chronicle article about SNOCAP's launch
- The Hook article on SNOCAP: "Never Mind the iTunes, It's Snocap"
- Written Testimony of Ali Aydar, COO, SNOCAP, Inc., Before the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee, 9/28/05"
- TIME: Meet the Napster (October 2000 cover story on Shawn Fanning & Napster
- Newsweek: The Noisy War Over Napster (June 2000 cover story on Shawn Fanning & Napster