Of course, the original Napster was the mother of all file-swapping networks. That is, until the recording industry won an injunction that forced the company offline.

But that was during the good old, anything-goes days of the Net. The current Napster is a legitimate online music service that charges 99 cents a pop for, well, pop, as well as country, rap, jazz and other genres.

So, free Napster? What’s up with that?

Simply put, it’s a new way to grab customers. It’s an ad-driven service where you can listen to any song in Napster’s inventory for up to five plays. After five, you’ll have to pay.

When you think of it, giving five free plays is a pretty good way to introduce people to new music. It’s a chance to take a song out for a drive around the block before you decide to buy. Of course, Napster is hoping that you’ll buy from them instead of going across the street to iTunes.

Along with the free listens, Napster also has two other new services.

Napsterlinks works with the free spins, allowing music lovers to link directly to Napster songs via email, instant message, blogs and Web sites, thus encouraging music fans to “spread the word” about their latest favs as well as partake in a little viral marketing on behalf of Napster and the labels.

The other new feature is called Narchive. It’s an online depository for music fans to contribute whatever they feel is relevant in regards to their personal music experiences, such as stories, photos and memorabilia. Napster is referring to Narchive the “People’s History of Music.” Narchive is expected to debut in beta form shortly.

“With all the progress the digital music industry has made over the past few years, a digital music model that fully satisfies everyone – fans, artists, labels and rights holders – has yet to surface,” Napster chairman and CEO Chris Gorog said. “We believe we have taken a significant step toward achieving this goal and are grateful for the cooperative support of the record industry