End of an era -- bidding farewell to Winamp
This was bound to happen sooner or later, although I would have preferred the latter. Winamp has announced that, starting December 20 2013, the site and associated cloud services will no longer be available to the public. What is even worse is that the longstanding media player will also be pulled from winamp.com. This is a sad moment indeed.
I have fond memories of Winamp, which makes it difficult for me to imagine a world without it. After all, when I got my first computer -- more than a decade ago -- it was one of the few pieces of software that came installed on my measly Windows 98 Second Edition PC. At the time, Winamp was my portal to listening to my favorite music. We have bonded and having to see it go away after all this time makes me feel like I'm never going to meet a best friend ever again.
Moving past my feelings about Winamp, the writing was on the wall for quite some time. AOL, which purchased Nullsoft (the company behind Winamp) in 1999 for a hefty sum at the time, failed to manage it properly and add the things that it needed to survive.
The biggest addition to Winamp was, alongside the media library, video playback -- which was baked in more than a decade ago. The feature, however, was more of an afterthought and could not rival what dedicated video players have since been offering.
AOL tried to recoup some of its investment by introducing a paid version of Winamp, which was not as popular as the free version mainly because it had no real value to offer to warrant spending money on it. Truth be told, there is only so much that a media player can do to attract people and keep them using it. Charging money for what is basically on-device media playback has been, in retrospective, a terrible business model for AOL and Winamp.
Almost nine years ago, BetaNews' Nate Mook had a chat with Winamp creator Justin Frankel, after quitting the popular project. Responding to a question about AOL's involvement in the development of the software, Frankel said:
I'm always hoping that they will come around and realize that they're killing it and find a better way, but AOL always seems too bogged down with all of their internal politics to get anything done. [Sighs] I suppose it doesn't help that I pissed them off so bad, so I should take part of the blame. I'd love to see Winamp back in the hands of people who really care about it.
Consumers were moving towards cloud-based multimedia content and online purchases, yet Winamp was strongly tied to the old on-device concept that made it popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The post-PC era (call it as you wish, though) made things even worse for the media player which was getting replaced by mobile-friendly apps and services. It still had a place in the world, but no longer an important one outside of PCs. The dinosaur of media players failed to adapt and we're now witnessing its demise.
For those of you who want to keep a copy of Winamp around, the media player will still be available to download until December 20 from the official site and, afterwards, from other, unofficial, sources.