After a 16-year Run, Winamp to Shut Down Next Month

After serving music lovers for around 16 years, AOL confirmed on Wednesday that the Winamp website and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013, and the Winamp Media Player will no longer be available for download. Winamp was originally developed by Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev, and first released as freeware back on April 21, 1997.

"Such a bummer. [AOL] had been trying to sell it for months. I even looked at it. Spinner was shut down first. It's the end of Music 1.0,” stated Venture capitalist Josh Felser, who founded, another online music property acquired by AOL at the same time as Winamp. He said that he seriously considered buying Winamp from AOL, but didn’t state why the purchase was never made.

Winamp version 1 arrived on June 7, 1997 adding a spectrum analyzer and color changing volume slider. Winamp 2 then landed in September 1998, and by then, the app had become one of the most downloaded pieces of software for Windows to date. By June 1999, AOL purchased the developers, formally called Nullsoft, for $80 million in stock, and as of June 22, 2000, Winamp reportedly surpassed 25 million registrants.

The downhill slide seemingly began with Winamp3. The update was released on August 9, 2002, and was a complete rewrite of version 2. But users found that it consumed way too much of the system resources, and was reported to be somewhat unstable. Thus, many users simply reverted back to Winamp 2. To make matters worse, Winamp3 wasn’t backwards compatible with Winamp 2 plugins and skins, thus giving users another reason to revert back to the older, more popular version.

Using the Winamp 2 codebase and integrating several Winamp3 features, Winamp 5 was released in December 2003, followed by Winamp 5.5 in October 2007, and finally the more recent Winamp 5.6. The latest release, Winamp 5.66, was launched on November 20, 2013, and would be the last installment of the long-time mp3 player. A Mac version was released in 2011 and an Android version in 2010.

“There's no reason that Winamp couldn’t be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition,” Rob Lord, the first hire and first general manager of Winamp, told Ars Technica last year.

“I'm always hoping that they will come around and realize that they're killing [Winamp] and find a better way, but AOL always seems too bogged down with all of their internal politics to get anything done,” said Justin Frankel, Winamp's primary developer, in an interview last year.

Ars Technica said on Wednesday that former employees who worked on Winamp estimate its current revenue at around $6 million USD annually. Winamp also still has an estimated user base of millions worldwide, so there’s a question as to why the service is shutting down. Is Winamp costing more than what it’s bringing in each year? That’s a question we’ll probably never get answered.

Ars Technica has an extremely detailed story about the rise and fall of Winamp here, which was posted last year. So long, Winamp, and thanks for  the tunes.

  • robax91
    I still use it, custom skins FTW!
  • nukemaster
    Awww and to think I still use it all the time(OpanAL plugin and all).
  • Darkk
    Loved WinAmp back in the day. Easiest and coolest music player until extra stuff got added in. May have been changed now.
  • Winamp2 was awesome. On another note, anything is better than realplayer!
  • skit75
    Still using ver. 2.78 here...... Winamp, it really kicks the lama's ass

  • Cons29
    plugins, skins, one of the best player out there
  • -Fran-
    I've been using the same skin for Winamp since like 1998 when they added support and I found the skin. When they switched to v3, I stuck with v2 and when they got v5, I've been using it as v2 all these years. They have improved in some key areas, but most of them I don't use.

    The plug in library for Winamp is amazing though. You can find pretty much anything in it, for whatever you want to do.

    Man... I just hope they keep a full offline installer before closing the shop. I'll keep using Winamp until I can't do it no more.

  • foxmulder_ms
    makes me somewhat sad. this big companies always ruins the small innovative ones after buying them out... :(
  • Big mistake not on Linux UBUNTU!
  • bmwman91

    Aaah memories of OC'ing my Voodoo2 Banshee card to crank up settings and resolution on visualizations and stuff. I've been busting out Milkdrop on the projector at parties since, well, a long time. While I am sure that installers will still be available for download across the web, it is sad to see the end of an era.