June 26, 2012 in Daily Bulletin
On the 15th anniversary of the launch of the once popular Winamp music player, Cyrus Farivar at Arstechnica took a look at how the software which was once poised to dominate the computer music industry lost its way. Highlights include:
- Winamp was developed by what became Nullsoft, a company run by Justin Frankel.
- The .mp3 player format had been developed by German scientists yet there was no good way to organize and play the music. Frankel’s Windows Advanced Multimedia Products (WinAMP) player was made to solve that problem.
- AOL acquired Winamp and a music streaming website called Spinner for $400 million in 1999. This was just before the disastrous merger between AOL and Time Warner in 2000.
- Winamp’s four person development team had a user base that was ten times the size of Spinner’s, and was showing much greater growth, yet Spinner was given control over the Winamp team, which had a very different culture.
- At the same time AOL was trying to convert users of Winamp into subscribers of its internet service. Yet by 2000 Winamp had more customers than AOL’s service subscribers – and Winamp’s customers were tech-savvy individuals who hated AOL. Winamp began to falter at the expense of attempts to broaden AOL’s subscriber base.
- The Winamp team created a music subscription service in 2000 but it didn’t come to market until 2003 – two years after Rhapsody launched its own service.
- Then the iPod and iTunes juggernaut crushed any hopes that Winamp had of dominating the music software space.
- Winamp is still surprisingly popular outside of the United States and there is some talk of a group of dedicated enthusiasts buying it from AOL with the hopes of reviving it.
To read many more details in an exhaustive, comprehensive, three page report that focuses on the history of the Winamp player, but also the wider development of the online music industry, where the executives who created Winamp work now, why Nullsoft was a maverich tech company, why Frankel resigned from the Winamp development team, how Winamp monetized its service, where Winamp’s users are now located, the recent interest that AOL has shown in reviving the player, and much more click here.