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#ThrowbackThursday: Winamp, it really whipped the llama's ass

I recently had the joy of setting up a new smartphone. One of my (probably not so efficient) habits while doing this was browsing through all my Play Store apps to install the ones I needed. Just before the list ended, I was suddenly struck with one almost-forgotten app: Winamp.

Yes, that was something. Winamp – perhaps the best media player for Windows. According to Wikipedia, the software was released on April 21, 1997, a good 19 years ago. I don’t remember exactly when I started using Winamp, but it was probably sometime around generation 1.x.

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Winamp 2.95 on a Windows 7 computer. / © Screenshot: ANDROIDPIT

Winamp has become very successful at only Version 2.x. Later, the catastrophic version 3.0, while having great features, was miserably slow. Only with version 5.0 had its developers reconciled with fans.

Winamp, it really whips the llama's ass

What always impressed me with Winamp (excluding botched version 3.x) was how incredibly fast it loaded while having a manageable download size. For the screenshots in this article I downloaded version 2.95, which is about 3 MB.

I could still hear the demo sound that was always in the playlist after a new installation – here’s a short animated YouTube clip to jog your memory:

The wide variety of skins was also awesome and, of course, plugins. They could generate wonderful visualizations on the screen, although my previous PC sometimes came to the end of its limits with these. A plugin that could play copy-protected iTunes files was also very practical. The Winamp library facilitated the management of my MP3 collection, so I was never tempted to use a different player. Even with an iPod, my main music player was Winamp, even though iTunes had the more modern UI in some ways.

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Winamp 5: blue and chic? / © Screenshot: ANDROIDPIT

Winamp even survived my move to Linux because I had to simultaneously feed my iPod with music, so Windows always remained on my PC. Only with a notebook did I switch to Linux. Gradually the iPod became my main playback device, leading Winamp to fall gradually into oblivion.

Winamp could be the better iTunes

I always found it extremely unfortunate that Winamp never launched its own music store. I would rather buy music from Winamp than Apple. But managing MP3 files could have been improved in Winamp. Attempts to build a Winamp player for Android failed. But thanks to the Winamp app, I’m sitting here today reminiscing and wondering how Winamp could enrich my life today – but only if the developers had tackled its platform the right way. A Winamp streaming service? It gets my mind going.

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The default look of the last Winamp, version 5.666. / © Screenshot: ANDROIDPIT

Meanwhile, the future of Winamp looks set. The installer remains on the internet today and the latest version bears the number 5.666. The website www.winamp.com is still online and the hope is that there might be a revival. The brand is now in Belgium, under Radionomy since September, 2015. There are, however, no more updates on the Winamp Twitter profile.

Have you ever used Winamp, or another media player instead? Let us know your experiences in the comments.

Readers' favorite comments

  • Robert D.
    • Staff
    5 months ago

    I'm proud to say that I still use Winamp 2.x even today. I sometimes enjoy the physicality of music, like throwing a vinyl on a record player or buying a CD, and I like the quick and simple fun of finding music within the countless folders in my computer and dragging it into Winamp's playlist editor depending on what I feel like hearing at the moment.

    Sure, I could do the same thing with a newer version of Winamp or nearly any other music player now by throwing all of the music into a library based system where you can search easily and make playlists galore but that sometimes feels like a chore. I almost don't want to see all 100,000+ songs I have in one massive library window every time I load up a program.

    So I really appreciated Winamp 2.x's elegance and simplicity for just letting me play the music without a fuss. It never felt like I was visually assaulted by bloated features or had to work-around questionable UI decisions. It's pretty much why I used the program almost exclusively since the late 90's up until a year or two ago when I needed a way to playback 24bit - 96khz flac files. I started using foobar for that and now I switched over to Nightingale. I'm loving the latter but Winamp still gets my love every now and then.

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  • Aside from it's simplicity and yet ever so flexible, and let's face it it's only true comparable worthy competition was XMMS - which really they were both much the same 'animal' in nature with just different philosophy paths, it still (in a 'one claw handing on the perch' way) does exactly what it always did well.

    2.xx was, for me also, the high point, i actually didn't dislike what they tried to do with 3.xx, and 5.xx was (in my opinion) trying a little too hard to be a player in a world where multimedia players had kinda lost the simplicity plot. That said, i use 5.xx and 2.xx in different setups still.

    But my endearing memories still lie with 2.xx - and it's truely lite version you could literally drop onto a CD-ROM build along with media files and playlists and you had a true dual purpose MP3 CD that was 1000% compatible with any decent MP3 CD portable and yet was a self-contained player/media storage you could slot into a PC and instant jukebox.

    The only thing the 2.xx lite really lacked was a JEOS bootable version (which back then was unheard of virtually, even Live Linux CD's were almost unheard of). Thinking back, if a JEOS bootable distro (Dos, Windows, Linux or something unique even) where you could download a simple media less image, extract the structure and build your own new version with your own media and playlist added, burn and boot - if that had existed, it would have been pretty damn unique in the Win world and probably still be in that hallowed territory of 'instant jukebox'.

    In that respect, it was the only thing 'doable' with XMMS that made it more flexible as a player.

    But sentimentally, you can't help feel for what Winamp was, and still manages to be.

  • I have seen a lot number of comparisons of Winamp with iTunes, VLC, etc. Each have its own strength and its own weakness. If you are using Apple and play your music on Apple devices, iTunes is reliable. Even VLC is good having different options, but not actually designed for playing audio. But its not like - Winamp is good player... but yes it has definitely a best compact audio player.

    I often use this app in the background everyday. And the modern, is over-the-top, and yeah it goes "Wi-wi-winamp! and really wips the lama's ass!" Best one..!!

  • Ivan C. 5 months ago Link to comment

    Winamp for PC, jetaudio for CP.

  • DrO 5 months ago Link to comment

    It's nice to see a reasonable article about Winamp than some of the others over the last few years on other sites have basically mocked anyone still using it.

    For streaming, more could and should have been done with SHOUTcast but with massively limited resources and in some respect apathy by those using SHOUTcast for broadcasting when it came to accepting updates, other services like tunein have taken over as the big players when it ideally should have been SHOUTcast.

    As for a music store, a true Winamp solution would have been very unlikely but leveraging other services could have (and possibly even still could) be done Alas there's so many things that could and should have been done as such ideas I believe had been floated around and had been mentioned by the community a number of times (in some respects it would have been better to listen to them a bit more but corporate pressure to maintain revenue often hindered that being able to be achieved imho).

    One small thing, Winamp was sold in January 2014 and not September 2015 (am not sure where that date might have come from).

  • I remember that I needed winamp and winzip to play emulators and more back in the days when Limewire and Kazaa were the places to download stuff.

  • Robert D.
    • Staff
    5 months ago Link to comment

    I'm proud to say that I still use Winamp 2.x even today. I sometimes enjoy the physicality of music, like throwing a vinyl on a record player or buying a CD, and I like the quick and simple fun of finding music within the countless folders in my computer and dragging it into Winamp's playlist editor depending on what I feel like hearing at the moment.

    Sure, I could do the same thing with a newer version of Winamp or nearly any other music player now by throwing all of the music into a library based system where you can search easily and make playlists galore but that sometimes feels like a chore. I almost don't want to see all 100,000+ songs I have in one massive library window every time I load up a program.

    So I really appreciated Winamp 2.x's elegance and simplicity for just letting me play the music without a fuss. It never felt like I was visually assaulted by bloated features or had to work-around questionable UI decisions. It's pretty much why I used the program almost exclusively since the late 90's up until a year or two ago when I needed a way to playback 24bit - 96khz flac files. I started using foobar for that and now I switched over to Nightingale. I'm loving the latter but Winamp still gets my love every now and then.

  • AIMP3 is the best alternative instead on pc

  • Pete Z 5 months ago Link to comment

    Winamp is NOT dead. In fact one of the old developers is working on new features and updating plugins. We have a full website for enthusiasts. Search for Winamp Enthusiasts and also we are on Facebook with over 3,400 members. Search Facebook also for Winamp Enthusiasts. Drop in and say hello!..

    • Bastian Siewers
      • Admin
      • Staff
      5 months ago Link to comment

      Well that sounds interesting. I mean we already have plenty of music apps in the Play Store, but still, could be interesting.
      Only question would be: how is Winamp going to compete with the likes of Spotify, Google Play Music etc. The times when people actually downloaded music are definitely over, aren't they?

      • DrO 5 months ago Link to comment

        I don't think Winamp (be it officially or via any community based updates) really should be trying to compete with those services as it just cannot when it's typically been a means of consumption of media.

        What it needs to be doing is making it possible to access those online options for those that want such things but then still also allowing people to do things locally as they want to do. As not everyone is mobile focused or likes the idea of just streaming things (despite what all the media implies is what is going on) and do prefer more tangible aspects like files on a drive or even actual CDs.

        Realistically, the Android version of Winamp is dead in the water. I know it works ok for some still using it but it's owners haven't shown any interest in it over the last 2.5 years and that's not good for an Android app imho to be so far behind on updates :(

        And whether the Windows version is still relevant or not (even if the PC is in decline, there's a hell of a lot of them out there still and in use), there's more means to keep that going from community updates as Pete alluded to. As that is the killer aspect about the Android version vs the Windows version that the Android version could never achieve in the form or community provided plug-ins and skins (which I know some other players do provide a simplistic skinning option which manages the spirit of things).

      • Bastian Siewers
        • Admin
        • Staff
        5 months ago Link to comment

        Well the question is if focusing on such a small group would actually make sense. I mean I do realise that some people prefer the offline way of doing things, but are there enough of those to make money?

  • Alex R. 5 months ago Link to comment

    you can still download winamp Android just search winamp apk u can find it.

  • peter 5 months ago Link to comment

    I used Winamp on my computer for many years,I was satisfied with this music ,video player.Thanks for your opinion on this good player,,,

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