Winamp: Fifteen years and still whipping that llama

Credit: flickr/Keng Susumpow

The MP3 player pioneer could have been iTunes, Pandora, or Spotify, if AOL hadn't buried them under bureaucracy.

As well-told by Ars Technica, Winamp lives, in spite of AOL buying them for $80-$100 million back in 1999, during the "sweet spot of insanity" just a year before they bought Time Warner. Initially the user base grew up to 60 million in 2001, but AOL didn't know how to take advantage as digital music exploded, fueled by the relatively good quality music compressed down to manageable size by the MP3 protocol.

AOL bought Spinner at the same time as Winamp, and put the Spinner team in charge. Layer on some extra AOL mismanagement, and their avoidance of a portable music player to push more users toward paying for AOL, and Apple, the iPod, and iTunes had the opening they needed to take over. And the rest, as they say, is history. But Winamp still claims to be the #2 music player behind iTunes.


it's a pleasure to remember the time when Winamp (and each successive version of it in the early days) was a really exciting product.

ventolin on

I still use the latest ver. of winamp lite actually. Have done so ever since my first mp3 playback.

Thanos A. on

Then WinAMP 3.0 happened, and it was buggy garbage.

thought_alarm on

I will always remember Winamp as providing one of the 'wow' moments in my tech life - the first time I downloaded an MP3 from a BBS and played it (only 4MB a song!)

nikcub on


But damn you, AOL! You killed what could have been the iTunes of today's world.

MarkMS on

So that's what happened to Winamp?! AOL and Yahoo... the place exciting startups go to die.

Serolf Divad on

AOL seems to have been a miracle cure--for success.

Ameer Gittens on

AOL isn't to blame for WinAMP going down hill, Nullsoft is for selling to them.

tatsuke95 on


supposed to be user friendly right? Well let's just say telling my little brother and my mom itunes they just deleted their whole music libraries on their ipods becuase of a "sync" issue after my investigation was not nice

Telekenesis on

iTunes has grown into a bloated beast that I hope Apple gets around to fixing ASAP.

ghshephard on

FYI – the Winamp Android player came out in 2011.

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