Winamp Is No More

Starting December 20, 2013, Winamp will no longer be available for download. A warning was posted on the Winamp website yesterday. Winamp served an instrumental role in the proliferation of downloaded music giving music fans an easy way to play music on their computer.

Initially developed as an .mp3 player in 1997 by Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev, two former students at the University of Utah, Winamp quickly transformed into the player of choice for many eager .mp3 downloaders, who hoarded files from Napster, Kazaa or any other free source they could find. This does not mean that Frankel and Boldyrev were patrons to the world of illegal downloading. In January of 1999, a partnership was formed between Nullsoft, Frankel and Boldyrev's development company, and Audio Explosion to create a secure, trackable, and profitable MP3 download service: Mjuice. The memory of Mjuice is hazy. As an add-on to the Winamp download, Mjuice utilized the .mja filetype, encrypted and secure, but as an add-on, it was just an additional step to getting your music into your awesome Winamp player—music which had to be paid for at that (gasp!). Despite the clunky MJuice add-on, users continued to opt for Winamp. In June of 2000, the program had over 25 million registrants. MJuice disappeared.

While I haven't used Winamp in years, I was still sad to read about the media player's end. As a sixth grader, I loved the multitude of skins available, but once I got bored with that and illegally downloaded files starting coming with buckets of embedded spyware, I focused on buying CDs and ripping music to the very slow Sony SonicStage, the accompanying program for my Minidisc player. Though I left, Winamp kept growing. They added playback for .flac, availability in sixteen different languages, video playback, and developed a version for Android.

Sony ended production on all MiniDisc players and now goes Winamp. Like all real-life and professional decisions, one must weigh the time put in and the benefit received. Constantly supporting and updating Winamp probably was not worth it for AOL, Winamp's current owner. Maybe Winamp will move back into the domain of freeware, where it first began? That would be cool.

So long, good friend.

Audio nut's picture

Seeing that graphic at the top of the page really takes me back to my college days. Next month will be 8 years out of college for me. (I started back in 1998 getting my B.S. and M.S.) I remember distinctly sitting in my dorm room downloading songs from napster and listening to them on that player. That was just what you did back then. Now I am 33 with my first child turning 1 next month. Man, time flies.

John Atkinson's picture

I stopped using WinAmp when it was sold to AOL, but it was the first file player program I used, back in the day when you could download MP3s from and it looked as if every Grateful Dead bootleg would become available.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

worldofsteveUK's picture

check out at the Internet Archive, they even have their own tab!

WinAmp was my introduction to MP3, a thanks to all involved. 

Thorsten Loesch's picture

When I started ripping all my CD's to the Hard Drive on my work PC, to have music in the office (played via a rather decent set of Altec Lansing branded computer speakers plus Sub), well before Y2K I seem to remember (I remember playing a lot of "It's the end of the world as we know it" kind of songs while working on Y2K contingency planning), I used EAC as ripper, Monekys Audio as lossless Codec and Winamp as player.

A little later my Winamp acquired the Ochatan ASIO Plugin from Japan and together with "ASIO4ALL" from Germany I had lossless, bitperfect PC Playback in the early oughties. And with a "virtual" high end hifi skin with virtual VU Meters and Virtual tubes running permanent on one side of the 2nd monitorof my PC I had a truely 'bichin' Office Music Setup. Winamp stayed for a long while.

Some of my fondest memories of WInamp are demoing the whole AMR system (with prototype speakers that were handcarried to each show, including on flights) in Fall 2006 and Spring 2007. The system was fronted by a laptop, running a fully tweaked up Winamp setup  fullscreen(but a sombre skin), playing monekys audio lossless files via the USB input on the AMR CD-77 CD-Player.

It sounded really as good, if not better than CD. And for the icing on the cake, I had Wifi based remote control from my fullmetal jacket 5" Touchscreen Windows Mobile Smartphone (the Apple iPhone was yet the better part of a year away from release) with a coverart based browser for music.

I still  remember the blank stares and occasional outright hostility to this sort of way of playing music from Visitors, so we played mostly from CD. I guess we where, like the proverbial Jubjub Bird, ages ahead of the fashion.

Winamp kinda went out of fashion around that time, I seem to remember. Now I cannot remember when I last saw a .ape file (all my several Terabyte music library is in FLAC), when I last fired up Winamp (I use Mediportal/PureAudio Plugin or J-River or Audirvana depening on platform) or used EAC to rip a CD (any rare rips go via dBPoweramp, downloads are now so quick, who wants to sit and rip?) or indeed installed ASIO4ALL on a PC (our products now support ASIO native, so do most others). 

Yet these programmes like Winamp laid the groundwork for the high quality Audio Playback on PC's, the way we now take for granted. Without them, who knows, we may still be stuck with Windows Media Player and iTunes and MP3. 

It is sad to see winamp go the way of the Llama. Who knows, it would be nice if the source code could be released into the community. If so, who knows, we may see the second comming of Winamp. And coming to think of it, it still whips the Llama's booty!

A fond farewell! Here's to absent friends and here's twice to absent enemies.