After “whooping the llama’s ass” for 16 years, Winamp, the popular desktop music player will be shutting down. AOL has announced that it will be closing down Winamp (and its related services) on December 20, following which, the software will be unavailable to download from official websites.
However, since Winamp is primarily an offline software, you can continue to use it, just make sure you download and keep a copy of the installer safely backed up and tucked away, although I’m sure there will be a million sites out there from which you could continue to download the installer, even if the official source shuts down. Updates aren’t too big an issue since Winamp users are accustomed to getting very rare updates, maybe once a year. However, the death of official support could mean that Winamp users may be left out in the cold if incompatibilities with any future versions of Windows should arise. One way this could be dealt with is if the Winamp source code is released, although considering AOL’s background, that seems unlikely.
Winamp still remains one of the most popular music players on desktops but ever since the advent of the iPod and iTunes and the more recent emergence of streaming players like Spotify, user share has dipped. In 2004, Nullsoft, the developer of Winamp, was bought by AOL for $80 million. Even now, Winamp is said to generate about $6 million of revenue annually for AOL, so the reason behind the decision to shut it down remains a strange one.
The first version of Winamp (0.2a) was launched in 1997 as freeware by Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev with a focus on minimalism and MP3 playback. Winamp continued to evolve and soon after v2.0 released, it quickly became one of the most downloaded software on Windows. Winamp3 was released in 2002, following which in 2003, Winamp 5, the biggest visual change in the player’s history (and the final ‘major’ version upgrade), was launched. Winamp v5.66 was released yesterday, and will probably be the final official update for the music player.
On a personal note, I have been using Winamp since my schooldays back in 1999 and still continue to use it everyday. Despite owning an iPhone, I continue to use Winamp because in my experience iTunes on Windows is probably one of the worst things that Apple’s name has ever been associated with. Since I have a large music collection and have an obsession with ID3 tags, album artwork and organizing my music, I have yet to come across a better music player to help me sort everything out. Unless Windows forces me to stop using Winamp, I plan to continue using it but I still feel sad that the people behind it are no longer there.
To the dev team behind Winamp, au revoir old friends, may you have long days and pleasant nights.