WACUP, Winamp v5.8 beta & the future of things WACUP & Winamp related

Ever since a Winamp v5.8 beta build from October 2016 leaked in mid September 2018 (yes those dates are correct) I’ve kept meaning to do this post to put down my thoughts about it all. Since then, whether it was by an annoyed beta tester (fairly likely), a hacked account (side-effect of the official winamp twitter account being hacked) or as now seems more likely it was intentionally done by people still directly involved with Winamp to test the waters & build some hype (how sad if that was the case), we’ve gotten an announcement about the magical future the Winamp brand is going to have in 2019 along with a slightly newer version of what I kindly called “the leaky build” which is as taken from the “new” winamp,com site, “not an ongoing project” (that’s one way to keep showing contempt to the community).

In the meanwhile I’ve kept chugging along working on WACUP which despite what’s going on with Winamp ‘officially’, I’m not going to be stopping working on it. Some may not think that’s the right decision as we’ve got a bright new future of Winamp coming in 2019 & new ‘official’ beta builds but none of what’s been talked about (as I’ll cover below) is of interest to me nor is it what I want from my Winamp experience. Now I know WACUP is massively behind where I’ve planned for it to be (especially with intended release dates of non-beta builds) but as one person & having IRL stuff to deal with & changing plans based on actual user feedback, development has been taking a lot longer than I’d planned or liked but I’m still putting out beta builds to the registered beta testers & you can view the build changelogs if you’re not one but interested to see what’s been going on (especially after it took almost 10 months between one of the builds but the feedback was it was worth the wait & was progress).

So lets get onto what I want to cover in this blog post. For the tl;dr, as I’m likely going to ramble or you just want the highlights, WACUP development is going to continue whether you like it or not, Winamp v6 in 2019 is going to be a mess with their focus on mobile only (aka highly likely death of the ‘official’ desktop) & the v5.8 beta is not a lot to show for almost 5 years of fooling the community.

WACUP, that’s what we’re here about right? Well like I’ve said above, despite all of what has been going on or not with Winamp itself, WACUP development is not going to stop as when you see comments like (& I quote from the Techcrunch article) On desktop, “the war is over,” he said, and between the likes of iTunes and web apps, there’s not much room to squeeze in. But mobile audio is fractured and inconvenient that’s a very solid indicator that there’s no interest to maintain the Windows version of Winamp as it currently is. This has since been backup up by the this quote from the “new” winamp,com site - “This version is not an ongoing project but be sure that we are currently working hard on a future new Winamp.”.

This stance from them is at odds with those not entrenched or wanting to be involved in using the streaming / walled-garden media services that restrict their choice in how & where they consume their audio. Sure it’s essentially a niche market (which has been that way ever since iTunes & mobile / streaming became the norm & whether that’s actually been the right thing is a different matter) but there are things that such users still want & a supported desktop version is one of those.

This is where I strongly believe WACUP now fits into things & is why not too long back the ‘P’ of WACUP was changed from meaning ‘Pack’ to now be ‘Project’ which to most is a small change but it changes the direction of what is actually being aimed for with WACUP. By making this change, it moves the aim from working with & making use of the Winamp v5.666 program files (I’ll address using Winamp v5.8 beta files a bit later) to only relying on them if it’s the only way to achieve a feature at that time. I’ve already replaced or removed around 50-55% of the files from v5.666 with my own replacements (if that was applicable) since I started on WACUP all that time back

This means the direction now for WACUP is to become a highly Winamp-compatible player of it’s own with v5.666 set as its compatibility upper limit. But why when we’ve got v5.8 beta & a glorious v6 on its way? - because I do not believe from anything that’s been mentioned nor from the apathy & contempt shown by the current owners to the community that their lauded v6 is going to be a proper Winamp release & is more likely just slapping the brand on something & is a money grab).

By moving away from using the actual Winamp program files & especially when a replacement playback core is up & running, it means people’s skins & plug-ins will still work (once most compatibility issues are worked out - which is no more different than what Winamp proper suffers from at times with much older plug-ins vs newer client releases) whilst allowing for better solutions to some of the long standing issues the native Winamp player has had.

As we need to remember that it’s from the Windows 95/98 era & even though the code has been patched & brought up to work on newer versions of Windows over the years (or you stick on the much older versions & hope that Windows compatibility will save you) but what happens if (although unlikely any time soon), Windows drops native 32-bit program support? Microsoft have already been pushing people towards UWP solutions since Windows 8 was released where possible which if that was all that is allowed (as some variants of Windows have done), any version of Winamp will not work.

So by moving WACUP to have it’s own highly compatible core (unlike most of the clones or programs that only support old 2.x-only compatible plug-ins) & dropping the need for original v5.666 files where possible, it makes it so much easier to support going forward & hopefully be more Winamp than Winamp is going towards being without a lot of the hacks & compromises that still exist when having to work with (or fight at times) the existing Winamp core.

This move away from using the v5.666 files is one key reason why I will not be updating WACUP to work on top of a v5.8 beta install as it means going back over all of the work I’ve done & for some cases re-applying binary patches to something that I’ve already done once & really don’t want to do again. Overall it’d put me back by a few more months than already is the case on where I want to be regarding non-beta builds of WACUP.

The second is that there’s no point in me using files from a Winamp version that I don’t want to use (I’ve not downloaded either the “leaky” build nor their ‘official’ beta - some of you won’t believe that but that’s the truth) nor do I want to let their lawyers have some fun though I don’t doubt they’ll find some way to have a go again.

It’s due to that as to why certain aspects of how WACUP is installed aren’t as simple as they should be (though the installer hides most of it away to the user which it’s acting on behalf off) & is also why other than giving appropriate acknowledgement of the Winamp name, etc (as anyone who has created content for Winamp has done over the prior 21 years), sticking with v5.666 is the safer option as I better understand it & it’s not by the current owners.

Some may not like that & want WACUP to be based on top of v5.8 beta but it’s then a personal choice on what build you prefer to make use off. As I’ve now stated my position on not using the v5.8 beta files & hope that is both understood from my reasons & can be accepted as what’s best for WACUP.

There is one area that is contentious that comes from WACUP becoming its own player & its what to do about a native 64-bit version? Since there was an internal 64-bit Winamp build but it missed a lot of things (e.g modern skin support - a lot of you probably won’t mind that) as you then also loose all 3rd party plug-in support unless those plug-ins are re-built as 64-bit versions (not that a lot tended to install plug-ins into their installs in recent years).

However if you go with a native 64-bit client (which isn’t something a media player really needs apart from with very large local library databases or trying to show a few 6000×6000 cover art images at the same time without running out of the memory a 32-bit program is able to access), despite the downsides you can essentially drop a lot of the compatibility / old apis that a Winamp core needs to provide along with forcing any 3rd party plug-ins that want to be loaded within it instead work with it to support for example only unicode apis instead of the mis-match of ansi & unicode that native Winamp suffers from (which means less program code, things are a bit faster as you’re checking & converting less things & it just makes for a tighter solution).

On the WACUP discord server we recently had a good long chat about the benefits & the downsides of going with an all 64-bit version (subject to WACUP being in a position to do it) & maybe it’s something over the next few years might make more sense to do vs sticking to a 32-bit only solution. As you can keep providing a 32-bit version but also provide a 64-bit solution which can warn the user if they try to use 32-bit plug-ins within & point them to the 32-bit version instead.

The main thing from all of this is that you ensure the user has a viable solution for what they want to do which is the whole crux of why we now need WACUP vs the mess that Winamp is facing. Though if you’re on mobile then you’ll love what they’ve got planned for you 🙄

Now getting back to Winamp proper as I’ve talked too much about WACUP & the v5.8 beta & it’s future. It’s likely that they might do a point release (e.g. 5.81 which would be a nod to 2.81 “classic” as was meant to be the end of that development line in the Winamp3 era - those involved can have that one from me) or just bump the build number & not call it a 5.8 beta (as they’ve done - which has not been noted by most of the articles about it) & cause some confusion over what build is being used (am guilty of that when I worked on Winamp officially but that was often down to having marketing material, etc in place aimed at the main version number & not the build number as software development is a fickle thing).

But ultimately the owners of Winamp don’t want to invest in a program that isn’t going to make them money (when you look up the information that had to be made available when Vivendi bought the Radionomy group, it showed they were loosing a fair amount of money across the board with Winamp in the red). Additionally not many know that Vivendi let them go or they bought themselves out (either way they’re not involved now) & is why the Winamp logo & related companies in their group had their logos changed from 2017 onwards to the abomination that we now see for Winamp from earlier in 2018 🤮

Finally, the future of Winamp proper is very murky as we’ve got “a platform-agnostic mobile audio app” to look forward to as part of the recently much lauded v6 release that’s talked about for 2019 (it only took from 2014-2018 for v5.8 to appear so 2023 anyone?) which many of the articles skip over is not mentioning the desktop (I refer you back to my earlier comments & quotes from what’s been provided regarding that officially).

Now I get that most users are mobile first nowadays & that streaming is the way (in part due to convenience & not enough on-device storage vs what a proper desktop solution offered for media playback) & if that works well for your needs then that’s all that can be asked for - the same goes for what software you want to use & is something I’ve always believed that you use the right solution for your needs & not just follow the crowd if it doesn’t work.

However far too many of the articles or comments are making what’s being talked about also bring in the desktop which when you properly read the original source from Techcrunch (I’ll not reference the countless other ‘big’ media outlets that butchered things) & everything point to that not being the case.

If anything, a new windows version would more likely be their mobile app rolled up into a desktop wrapper which even if you use electron + webamp (formally winamp2-js which has done a lot to keep some interest in Winamp alive over the last few years even if it’s mostly nostalgic) & that would not be Winamp for Windows as we know it since it’d definitely break plug-in & most likely skin support unless you leveraged webamp for the classic skin support along with much more memory usage than Winamp is already claimed to use due to it being “bloated” (hint: don’t blindly click next in the installer & don’t install features you don’t need).

Is that what people want, from a lot of the comments looked at over the last month, not so much & capturing what made Winamp 2.x appeal in the way it did is what most seem to be wanting for anything that’s got the Winamp brand slapped on it & sadly, that’s not the tone that is coming from the current owners for any of the future offering.

So there you go, what’s in store for WACUP, my take on the mess that Winamp is currently in & how I’m expecting it to pan out with their mobile-focused future. I know a lot will disagree with my views (am more than fine with that as there’s a few out there who think the same & I’m more than comfortable with that) & only ‘official’ will do for them & that’s how it should be - use what you want as I will use as I want 😎

Hence why I’ll still work on WACUP which I need to re-iterate once more is not a fork of the v5.666 codebase as some keep on saying it is. It’s new code or re-workings of my plug-ins from over 15 years of development or making use of publicly available code (e.g. Winamp SDK, Winamp3 / wasabi.player source code & other plug-ins) which is then modified in accordance with said codes licence to do what WACUP needs.

Finally, I’ll take the time once more to thank my Patreons who are helping me to keep working on WACUP (however fast or slow my development pace is at times) as the best thing about Winamp was the community & for it to succeed, it needs to use it & not abuse it.


p.s. Either a portable preview build or a v1.0 of WACUP will be out by the end of 2018 (only 6 months later than planned but my health & sanity has to come first at times).