History of the Winamp – Part 2

Our music maven and tech editor Josh Stone recently accepted a new job and joins a number of highly successful Louisiana maritime injury lawyers at his new digs. We will miss his insightful posts and dry wit, but know that as he joins the legal profession in a new state we will still be able to rib him, but maybe even more so since we’ve been collecting lawyer jokes ever since he started law school. Silliness aside, good luck Josh, and perhaps you can now answer that existential question, “what is the difference between a dead lawyer and banjo?”


Winamp 2

Are you old enough to remember the time before high-quality compressed music was accessible on the internet? Before MP3s entered the mainstream, organizing, copying, and playing back one’s favorite music collection remained an awkward and frustrating experience. MP3s helped somewhat but it wasn’t Winamp, the skin-able, customizable MP3 player entered the fray that ripping music with a copy of Winamp became the goal of every music geek. Big-money acquisition offers to the creators of Winamp quickly followed.

Now some people say that as soosn as AOL famously acquired the company in June 1999 for $80-$100 million—and Winamp almost immediately lost its innovative edge. You decide.

Winamp 2.0 was introduced on September 8, 1998. Note that the 2.x versions of Winamp began to gather much steam, and ended making the program one of the most downloaded software for Microsoft Windows. With this version, we say improved playlist usability, a more accurate equalizer, more plug-ins, and playlist and equalizer windows skins.

Winamp 2.10 was released on March 24, 1999, and it included a new version of the “Llama” demo.mp3 which featured a musical sting and bleating.

Moving right along, on June 22, 2000, Winamp had over 25 million registrants.


Note the new spelling convention of Winamp3. This was intentional in order to include “mp3” in its name.

Winamp3 was released on August 9, 2002, and was a copmplete overhaul of version 2. It was now rewritten on the the Wasabi application framework, which offered additional flexibility and functionality. Only thing is many users found it to be a power hog, consuming too many system resources and was more unstable. They also missed some functionality, including the ability to find or counted the total duration of tracks in a playlist. As well, Winamp3 wasn’t backward compatible with Winamp 2 plugins and skins and plugins. These above issues resulted in many users refusing to commit to a permanent install.

Nullsoft subsequently continued the development of Winamp 2 to include versions 2.9 and 2.91 in 2003. The beta versions of 2.92 and 2.95 included some of the same functionality that we would find in Winamp 5. Incidentally, Nullsoft released an alpha version of Winamp3 for Linus on October 9, 2001, but unfortunately have never updated it since.

With little fanfare the 15-year anniversary of Winamp is now upon us. It’s almost as if all the music geeks and the Internet has forgotten about the upstart with the odd slogan. At one time it look like Winamp would be the company to revolutionize digital music. It certainly had the opportunity. According to Rob Lord, the first general manager of Winamp: “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.” We say: What a shame.

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