Winamp shutdown yesterday. Even though I hadn’t used it in years, this makes me a little sad, as Winamp was iconic. It was a hero of the early world-wide web, helping to kick-start the internet music age for a great many people like myself.
I first discovered Winamp around 14 years ago, during my first year at university. Back then, you could run Winamp from any old folder without installing it, so everyone used to have a copy in their network profile. This was the early days… MP3s were still a rarity here in the UK, so you would listen mainly to CDs (Windows Media Player was a world of suck on Windows NT), or the 2-3 MP3s you had downloaded from Napster.
As time went on, MP3s became more and more common, and Winamp became the defacto music player for a lot of people. Imitators sprung-up elsewhere. It was small, customisable, and with plugins was able to do almost anything – like managing an MP3 Player, if you were the early-adopter who splashed out a few hundred for one of the early, pre-iPod devices. Ahem.
Then the iPod happened, and with it, iTunes. Once iTunes for Windows hit, that was the end of Winamp’s glory days. Owned by AOL, it sank into irrelevance. Full-blown music library management, with integrated store and device management, was the order of the day – all things Winamp was woeful at, even with plugins – relegating Winamp to a niche of nostalgia and a small number of users who couldn’t do with out some feature or other. Winamp 3 was a mess, Winamp 5.5 moved away from the minimal UI. There was even an Android version. It was terrible.
By that time, we had all moved to streaming music services. Why store gigabytes of music files on your computer, when someone else can do it for you, and high-speed access is increasingly common? The need for an application like Winamp was increasingly shrinking. At least Spotify has honoured your legacy by releasing Spotiamp.
And so yesterday, Winamp ceased to be. The site is still there, and for now at least, it seems you can still download v5.666… but that will be turned off soon.
So long, Winamp. You really whipped that ass for as long as you could.