So, what inspired you to write ‘Sexyback’?”
That’s how Jimmy Fallon began his interview with Sean Parker at the NExTWORK conference. Played by Justin Timberlake in the film The Social Network, the real Sean Parker has seen some incredible highs and some dismal lows during his life. But throughout, he’s been balanced on the cutting edge of the Internet, not only as the first president of Facebook, but also as an early employee at controversial peer-to-peer file-sharing network Napster and as a co-founder of up-and-coming streaming music service Spotify.
“I sort of failed systematically at least in terms of my own goals,” Parker told Fallon of his history in the industry, “but somehow failure has transformed into a weird kind of success.”
Parker, who was busted by the F.B.I. for running successful corporate hacks as a teenager, spoke of his early days, classifying himself as a “grey hat” hacker. While white hats are “computer security professionals,” Parker said that grey hat and black hat hackers are a more troublesome bunch.
“Grey hats are mischief makers who think they’re really doing good but they’re not,” he said. “You learn that when the F.B.I. shows up on your doorstep. Black hats, they’re the ones you watch out for, they’re the ones who are out to destroy. I knew some of those guys; they were sociopaths.”
Work at Napster soon followed, but seemingly led to a dead end when the company became the bane of the music industry and resulted in huge lawsuits for everyone involved.
“Napster was not a commercial success,” he said. “There was a time I was quite afraid if I made any money it’d be an incentive for record labels to resume litigation against me, so I lived under this dark cloud.”