If you go back in time to around 10 years ago, Winamp would probably be the most popular music player on Windows. It could play a huge range of music files, and could manage them in a media library for you. If you wanted to play different music to what you owned, there were many internet radio stations available too. Plus, it was skinnable, so you could change its appearance, and plugins allowed you to extend its functionality.
Sadly, the last decade has not been kind to Winamp. I bet most Windows users now use iTunes, which, co-incidentally, first became available on Windows around 10 years ago. The triumvirate of iTunes, the iTunes Store and the iPod seems to have proven too much for Winamp, which has announced that its web site will be closing next month and all development will cease.
In the early days, Winamp supported syncing with an iPod through a plugin, and for a time I think this may have even been included with Winamp itself. But at some point it was spun out as a separate project, and Apple’s continual changes frustrated developers. It hasn’t been updated in three years and doesn’t work with many recent iPod models.
Some say that Winamp’s decline started even before the rise of iTunes, blaming AOL who bought Winamp’s parent company Nullsoft in 2002, and subsequently mismanaged it. Later that year there was the controversial release of Winamp 3, bringing new features but failing to match the performance of its predecessor. The version 2 codebase eventually made a return in Winamp 5 (skipping version 4) to combine version 3’s features but with better performance.
Winamp had its 15th anniversary last year, and it has recently branched out with a companion Android app, to replicate the iTunes-iPhone combination. There was also the recent launch of Winamp for Mac. However, even on Android Winamp faced competition from Google Play Music, especially with its new ‘All Access’ streaming service.
Whilst it has been many years since I last used Winamp, I’ll miss it. It had character, as its slogan ‘It really whips the llama’s ass’ demonstrates. I hope that somebody offers to buy up the remnants of the company and continue development, away from AOL.