Yes you’ve read the title correctly, today April 21st 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of when WinAMP 0.20a was first released as freeware to the world! If you’ve never seen it then that first version looks a lot different to what most people think off when Winamp is mentioned but everything has to start somewhere and that’s how Winamp started
Over those 20 years Winamp has changed from being an independent product as freeware and then shareware (for the first ~2 years) to being owned by AOL and becoming free for all with v2.5 (for good or bad depending on your view point for ~15 years) through to it’s current state of limbo with its current owners (for the last ~3 years) and the current v5.666 release.
The name has changed from WinAMP to WinAmp to Winamp as licensing and other factors have had their effect on the player. For those paying attention this is often a good way to know when someone first started using it.
The Windows version of Winamp has been at the heart of everything but there’s been flirtation with other platforms over the years though sadly they’ve never seen the same level of success as the original Windows version attained.
This has ranged from a classic Mac OS version (a limited 2.x version) to Winamp3 for Linux (sadly only an alpha version before Winamp3 as a whole was cancelled) to Winamp for Android (WAFA) and a newer OS X / macOS beta called Winamp Sync for Mac. There was even the Winamp Cloud which was an attempt to take Winamp to more platforms as part of a web based solution in-combination with the other players available at the time.
Winamp’s release history has has it’s moments as it’s progressed from 0.x to 1.x to 2.x to Winamp3 and then into the current 5.x series. There’s also been the play on words and numbers over the years from the infamous 666 releases (1.666, 2.666 and something I was glad I was able to do was to make the 5.666 release) to the Winamp3 beta names and quick release of updates in the early days to fix silly bugs and so on.
The biggest bump in the road prior to 2004 was the Winamp3 era which was ambitious but didn’t work out as planned as sadly time and resources hindered getting it to the optimised state that it deserved. This ended up with the new Winamp3 skin engine and parts of the media library being turned into plug-ins and creating the 5.x releases.
The biggest downside of this time was the split in users who ended up never going beyond 2.x releases which in the later days of the 5.x releases became an issue (amongst other reasons) for less interest in using the current Winamp releases (which imho are massively better than the 2.x releases).
There were also the times when people moved on to other projects or development was temporarily halted (2004) but overall it’s kept going often with the help of the enthusiastic user base with the skins and plug-ins that they create.
The biggest thing to come about from the creation of Winamp was the enthusiastic community of users and all of the skins and plug-ins that have been created by them which helped to make Winamp greater than the sum of it’s parts.
This comes from the ability of the community to do such things as adding new file format support to streaming features or playlist management and much more. There’s also being able to change the look of Winamp with classic (2.x) or modern (Winamp3 / 5.x) skins with some being amazing and fondly remembered and others being dire and best forgotten.
However that’s the joy of customisation and whether you like it or loathe it, it helped to make Winamp more about what you wanted and that’s hard to fault (unless it was an awful anime skin from one of the skin generator programs).
A lot has changed over the last 20 years since Winamp was created when it comes to how people use computers (or not) and consume their media (streaming services tend to win out to local playback) but there’s still a place for it for a lot of people both existing or even new users (its still happening). You just don’t tend to hear from them as they’re happily listening to their music ☺
Whether or not Winamp is still relevant to you, 20 years of a player that has often been copied (as a lot of linux players have origins in trying to do) or led to other players being created due to internal spats, it’s something that just has to be acknowledged for what Winamp helped start all those years back from the media player wars (Sonique anyone?) to the range of media players that were spawned.
Finally do take the time to thank any skin and plug-in developers that you know off (far too many to name here) through to those who’ve had their hand in shaping Winamp from it’s early beginnings (Justin, Christophe, Francis, Brennan, Mig, Aus et al) to it’s current state if you appreciate Winamp as either a past or present user.
And always remember that Winamp… It Really Whips the Llama’s Ass! ❤
p.s. All registered WACUP beta testers will be receiving a 20th anniversary celebration build later today. Anyone interested in helping test WACUP (a community provided update pack for Winamp) just need to follow these instructions for how to join in.