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Napster founders say there's 'magic' in new Airtime web video project

Napster founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning announced the creation of a new web video project today.  The service, Airtime, is a live video chat network that connects users to their Facebook friends and suggests people to connect with based on shared interests. 

“There’s so many ways that a platform like this can be used that it’ll be far more diverse and rich than we can even imagine, you know, today. But as a foundation, the fact that there is presently no way to do this—you can look at Airtime as providing you with a way to, with your current friends, have a much more deep and meaningful experience and really get a deep satisfaction in knowing that you’ve shared something that they care about,” said Shawn Fanning in an interview with NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie airing Thursday, June 7, at 10pm/9c on Rock Center with Brian Williams.

Parker and Fanning met online when they were both teen hackers.  In 1999, they collaborated on the controversial music-sharing service Napster while still teens.  It drew the ire of the music industry while simultaneously making the world regard the two young men as tech savvy geniuses.  Parker would go on to have a hand in another revolutionary internet game changer that turned him into a billionaire: Facebook. He served as Facebook’s first president and reportedly maintains a close relationship with Marc Zuckerberg. A fictionalized account of his role in the company was portrayed by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network.


In their first network television interview together, Parker and Fanning, told NBC’s Guthrie about their latest venture. Airtime not only allows live video chat, similar to existing web video products, but also allows friends and strangers to meet and watch other videos together, while tapping into Facebook's global user base.

"We actually leverage off of all of these data that 950 million have self-reported about their interests, about what they care about, about who they are.  And we allow you to match with other people who have similar interests," Parker said in the interview scheduled to air Thursday night on Rock Center.  "You can do it with your friends.  But then you can also take it a step further.  And what's really cool about this is that there is, as Shawn says, there's a magic in it."

In the wide-ranging interview, Parker discusses his portrayal in The Social Network and both weigh in on the tech boom in California and the character transformation they see taking place in the industry.

"We are living through a moment in Silicon Valley which is so greed driven, which is so competitive.  And people have lost sight of the power of technology to change the world.  I mean, no one's really interested in -  I shouldn't say "no one."  But in Silicon Valley, there seems to be a lack of interest in the cultural implications or the societal implications of technology," Parker said.  "I think that will start to change.  But when you're in a bubble environment, there's such a frenzy to make money.  You know, you see these huge IPOs.  And then you get these young kids out of college who just wanna go and make a quick buck.  And it attracts the wrong kinds of people."

Parker also talks about the scrutiny surrounding Facebook's recent initial public offering and discounts critics who suggest social media is a passing fad.

Editor's note: Watch Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning's interview, as well as a demonstration of their new Airtime product, on Thursday, June 7 at 10pm/9c on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.