Ruckus fails. What went wrong?

Ruckus is quiet.

The five-year-old Herndon, Va.-based music service for college students abruptly shut down over the weekend, leaving behind thousands of users and a host of burned investors.

To understand what went wrong, it's helpful to take a look at the company's shifting business model. Ruckus Networks, Inc., started out as a Napster-like service based on monthly subscriptions that was marketed to colleges and universities nervous about students illegally downloading music and movies. In recent years it was incorporated into student fees at over 1,000 partnering institutions and offered as a "free" service to anyone with an e-mail address ending in .edu. According to the , students could pay an extra US$15 for access to 4,000 movies and TV shows.

The company made several management changes as it attempted to establish itself and find a winning business model. In 2006, it installed CEO Mike Bebel, former COO of Napster. Another move involved selling Ruckus to TotalMusic, a joint venture of Sony BMG and Universal Music Group.

But the service was doomed, say users who have posted complaints about Ruckus in recent days. One is Coolfer founder Glenn Peoples, who used Ruckus as a grad student at Vanderbilt University. that among Ruckus' drawbacks was copyright protection, an inability to stream music and use of a proprietary format that ruled out iPods. That said, "the main problem was the actual service ... It looked and felt like it was on too tight a budget. Rhapsody and Napster are far superior," Peoples writes.

Ruckus' apparent reliance on ad revenues as a significant moneymaker also no doubt contributed to its problems.