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Winamp is still a great music player but ...

I remember my college days when Internet access was only through the nearby cyber-cafe or the college labs. Home speeds were pathetic (thanks to dial up access - no broadband), where you would take 1/2 hour to check your mail and if you wanted to do extended reading you'd rather download the page, disconnect internet and read the document offline.

However, computers were still the primary forms of listening to music - hostel rooms used to buzz with all kinds of songs from dawn till late nights. There were no iPods but students used to carry their songs in USB drives and CD's. I even remember once removing the hard-disk of my PC, connecting it as a slave to my friend's PC and copying my 10GB music library to his computer.

In these pre-iPod/iTunes days - the music player of choice across the world was Nullsoft Winamp. Winamp was a pioneer in the 'app design' space. Unlike any existing Windows applications, it did not have a title bar, its colours were not shades of grey and its buttons were not like standard "Ok" "Cancel" windows buttons.

Winamp was as jazzy and colourful as a rocker's dorm room with ability to create skins et al. Long before Blogger or Firefox spread the community culture to design 'skins' and add-ons - Winamp had it all including a vibrant developer community. Check out some of the default Winamp skins from v1, 3 and 5. My personal favourite was v5 (perhaps because that's the last one I used)

With time however, Winamp's popularity has withered away. I polled a random cross-section of friends (& friends of friends) on their usage of Winamp - ALL of them remembered Winamp but only 25% were using it even today. 30% had last used Winamp 3-4 years ago.

The audience I polled was mostly in the 25-40 age group [break up]. If you too want to respond to the poll - you are welcome! Click here to respond. See all responses here.

Apart from the proliferation of mobile media players such as iPod and smartphones, another reason for the fall of Winamp is changes in consumption of type of media. Earlier, most time was spent only on audio - now people are spending as much time watching video. More and more time is also spent on social networking - which ultimately comes from the same 24hr kitty of a teenager.

Also older (non-teenage) fans of Winamp have moved on - I personally prefer a much less cluttered player called 1by1, many others who responded to my poll used either VLC or Windows Media Player. One of the respondents said that s/he "would still prefer Winamp if it can give me a complete package to play whole range of media like VLC does."

Frankly, while I look back at Winamp with nostalgia - I don't see much that can help the tool because several reasons impacting it are outside the purview of what Winamp team itself can do. Probably re-inventing itself as an iPhone/ Android app for music aggregation may help retain the brand - but its existence as a music player is unlikely to continue with the same vigour as it did in the 2000's.

So Long Winamp - we remember you but don't miss you anymore!


  1. Not sure what the respondent meant by "would still prefer Winamp if it can give me a complete package to play whole range of media like VLC does." Winamp can and does play videos (and has for years). Not to mention streaming audio/radio/video and DVDs. What other media could they possibly need that WA doesn't already play?

  2. @xion_one I don't think Winamp can play avi files. Also VLC plays files encoded with a multitude of codecs, not sure if Winamp can do that


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