Version 1 of Winamp was released in 1997, and grew quickly popular with over 3 million downloads, paralleling the developing trend of MP3 (music) file sharing. Winamp 2.0 was released on September 8, 1998. The 2.x versions were widely used and made Winamp one of the most downloaded Windows applications. By 2000, Winamp had over 25 million registered users.
A poor reception to the 2002 rewrite, Winamp 3, was followed by the release of Winamp 5 in 2003, and a later release of version 5.5 in 2007.
At installation, Winamp scans the user's system for media files to add to the Media Library database. It supports full Unicode filenames and Unicode metadata for media files. In the Media Library user interface pane, under Local Media, several selectors (Audio, Video, date and frequency) permit display of subsets of media files with greater detail.
Adding album art and track tags
Get Album Art permits retrieval of cover art, and confirmation before adding the image to the database. Autotagging analyzes a track's audio using the Gracenote service and retrieves the song's ID2 and ID3 metadata.
Winamp Media Monitor allows web-based browsing and bookmarking music blog websites and automatically offering for streaming or downloading all MP3 files there. The Media Monitor is preloaded with music blog URLs.
Winamp Remote allows remote playback (streaming) of unprotected media files on the user's PC via the Internet. Remote adjusts bitrate based on available bandwidth, and can be controlled by web interface, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360 and mobile phones.
In February 1998, Winamp was rewritten as a "general purpose audio player" with a plug-in architecture. This feature was received well by reviewers. Development was early, diverse, and rapid: 66 plugins were published by November 1998. The Winamp software development kit (SDK) allows software developers to create seven different types of plug-ins.
Skins are bitmap files which alter the aesthetic design of the Winamp graphical user interface (GUI) and can add functionality, with scripting. Winamp published documentation on skin creation in 1998 with the release of Winamp 2, and invited Winamp users to publish skins on Winamp.com. As of 2000 there were nearly 3000 Winamp skins available. The ability to use skins contributed to Winamp's popularity early in MP3 development. With the increasing number of available skins, genres or categories of skins developed, such as "Stereo", "Anime", and "Ugly". Online communities of skin designers such as 1001Skins.com and Skinz.org have contributed thousands of designs; also at GnomeArt. Designers see skins as an opportunity to be creative: nontraditional examples have included Klingon, iPod, and Etch-a-sketch designs. The Winamp skin format is the most popular, the most commonly adopted by other media player software, and is usable across platforms. One example is the XMMS player for Linux and Unix systems, which can use unmodified Winamp 2 skin files. Winamp 5 supports two types of skins — "classic" skins designed to Winamp 2 specifications (static collections of bitmap images), and more flexible, freeform "modern" skins per the Winamp 3 specification. Modern skins support true alpha channel transparency, scripting control, a docked toolbar, and other innovations to the user interface.
Winamp was first released in 1997, when Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev, formerly students at the University of Utah, integrated their Windows user interface with the Advanced Multimedia Products "AMP" MP3 file playback engine. The name Winamp (originally spelled WinAMP) was a portmanteau of "Windows" and "AMP". The minimalist WinAMP 0.20a was released as freeware on April 21, 1997. Its windowless menubar-only interface showed only play (open), stop, pause, and unpause functions. A file specified on the command line or dropped onto its icon would be played. MP3 decoding was performed by the AMP decoding engine developed by Advanced Multimedia Products co-founder Tomislav Uzelac, which was free for non-commercial use.
WinAMP 0.92 was released as a freeware in May 1997. Within the standard Windows frame and menubar, it had the beginnings of the "classic" Winamp GUI: dark gray rectangle with silver 3D-effect transport buttons, a red/green volume slider, time displayed in a green LED font, with trackname, MP3 bitrate and "mixrate" in green. There was no position bar, and a blank space where the spectrum analyzer and waveform analyzer would later appear. Multiple files on the command line or dropped onto its icon were enqueued in the playlist.
Version 1.006 was released June 7, 1997 renamed "Winamp" (lower case). It showed a spectrum analyzer, and color changing volume slider, but no waveform display. The AMP non-commercial license was included in its help menu.
According to Tomislav Uzelac, Frankel licensed the AMP 0.7 engine June 1, 1997. Frankel formally founded Nullsoft Inc. in January 1998 and continued development of Winamp, which changed from freeware to $10 shareware. In March, Uzelac's company, Advanced Multimedia Products (which by then had been merged into PlayMedia Systems), sent a cease-and-desist letter to Nullsoft, claiming unlawful use of AMP. Nullsoft responded that they had replaced AMP with Nitrane, Nullsoft's proprietary decoder, but Playmedia disputed this.
Version 1.90, released March 31, 1998 was the first release as a general-purpose audio player, and documented on the Winamp website as supporting plugins, of which it included two input plugins (MOD and MP3) and a visualization plugin. The installer for Version 1.91, released 18 days later, included wave, cdda, and Windows tray handling plugins, as well as the famous Wesley Willis-inspired DEMO.MP3 file "Winamp, it really whips the llama's ass".
By July 1998, Winamp's various versions had been downloaded over three million times.
Winamp 2, shown with default Base Skin
Winamp 2.0 was released on September 8, 1998. The 2.x versions were widely used and made Winamp one of the most downloaded pieces of software for Windows. The new version improved the usability of the playlist, made the equalizer more accurate, introduced more plug-ins and allowed skins for the playlist and equalizer windows.
PlayMedia filed a federal lawsuit against Nullsoft in March 1999. In May 1999, PlayMedia was granted an injunction by Federal Judge A. Howard Matz against distribution of Nitrane by Nullsoft, and the same month the lawsuit was settled out-of-court with licensing and confidentiality agreements. Soon after, Nullsoft switched to an ISO decoder from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the developers of the MP3 format.
Winamp 2.10, released March 24, 1999 included a new version of the "Llama" demo.mp3 featuring a musical sting and bleating.
Nullsoft was bought by AOL in June 1999 for US$80 million in stock.
Nullsoft relaunched the Winamp-specific winamp.com in December 1999 to provide easier access to skins, plug-ins, streaming audio, song downloads, forums and developer resources.
As of June 22, 2000 Winamp "surpassed 25 million registrants".
The next major Winamp version, Winamp3 (so spelled to include mp3 in the name and to mark its separation from the Winamp 2 codebase), was released on August 9, 2002. It was a complete rewrite of version 2, newly based on the Wasabi application framework, which offered additional functionality and flexibility. Winamp3 was developed parallel to Winamp 2, but "many users found it consumed too many system resources and was unstable (or even lacked some valued functionality, such as the ability to count or find the total duration of tracks in a playlist)". Winamp3 had no backward compatibility with Winamp 2 skins and plugins, and the SHOUTcast sourcing plugin was not supported. No Winamp3 version of SHOUTcast was ever released.
In response to users reverting to Winamp 2, Nullsoft continued the development of Winamp 2 to versions 2.9 and 2.91 in 2003, even alluding to it humorously. The beta versions 2.92 and 2.95 were released with the inclusion of some of the functionality of the upcoming Winamp 5. During this period the Wasabicross-platformapplication framework and skinnableGUI toolkit was derived from parts of the Winamp3 source code. For Linux, Nullsoft released an alpha version of Winamp3 on October 9, 2001 but has not updated it despite continued user interest.
Winamp 5 featuring Winamp Modern skin
The Winamp 2 and Winamp3 branches were later fused into Winamp 5. Nullsoft joked that "nobody wants to see a Winamp 4 skin" ('4 skin' being a pun on foreskin). It was also joked that "Winamp 5 is so good they skipped a number" and "Winamp 2+3=5,". Winamp 5 was based on the Winamp 2 codebase, with several Winamp3 features (e.g. modern skins) incorporated. Winamp 5.0 was released in December 2003.
From version 5.2 onwards, support for synchronizing with an iPod is built-in.
Winamp 5.5: The 10th Anniversary Edition was released on October 10, 2007, ten years after the first release of Winamp (a preview version had been released on September 10, 2007). New features to the player included album art support, much improved localization support (with several official, localized Winamp releases, including German, Polish, Russian and French), and a unified player and media library interface skin. This version dropped support for Windows 9x.
As of version 5.55, Winamp development is credited to Ben Allison (Benski) and Maksim Tyrtyshny.
Winamp 5.6 features Android Wi-Fi support and direct mouse wheel support. Fraunhofer AAC Codec with VBR encoding support was implemented. Moreover, the option to write ratings to tags (for mp3, wma/wmv, ogg & flac) was added. Hungarian and Indonesian installer translations and language packs were added.
With the release of Winamp version 5.66 on November 20, 2013, AOL announced that Winamp.com would shutdown on December 20, 2013, and Winamp would cease to be offered for download after that date.
Five days later, version 5.666 was released with the "Pro" & "Full" installers being one and the same, in the process removing OpenCandy, Emusic, AOL Search and AOL Toolbar from the installation bundle. This was announced to be the last release of Winamp from AOL/Nullsoft.
There was a Winamp 5.7 beta program for an invite-based Winamp Cloud feature, which would let Winamp play a user's entire cloud stored music library across all supported devices. This feature would have allowed AOL to provide a music locker service that would essentially compete with other online music lockers. The beta program was cancelled months before the announcement to shutdown the Winamp project.
Acquisition by Radionomy
On November 20, 2013, AOL announced that on December 20, 2013, it would shut down Winamp.com, and the software would no longer be available for download, nor supported by the company after that date. The following day, an unofficial report surfaced that Microsoft was in talks with AOL to acquire Nullsoft. Despite AOL's announcement, the Winamp site was not shut down as planned, and on January 14, 2014, it was officially announced that Belgian online radio aggregator Radionomy had bought the Nullsoft brand, which includes Winamp and Shoutcast. No financial details were publicly announced. However, TechCrunch has reported that the sale of Winamp and Shoutcast is worth between $5 and $10 million, with AOL taking a 12% stake (a financial, not strategic, investment) in Radionomy in the process.
On other platforms
Winamp for Android streaming an Internet radio station over WiFi
Released as a beta product in October 2010, the Android version for OS 2.1 includes syncing with Winamp desktop (ver. 5.59 beta+) over USB or WiFi. It was received with some enthusiasm in the consumer blog press.
In October 2011, Winamp Sync for Mac was introduced as a beta release. It is the first Winamp version for the Apple Macintosh platform and runs under Mac OS X 10.6 and above. Its focus is on syncing the Winamp Library to Winamp for Android and the iTunes Music Library (hence the name, "Winamp Sync for Mac"). Nonetheless, a full Winamp Library and player features are included. The developer's blog states that the Winamp Sync for Mac Beta will pave the way for future Winamp-related development under Mac OS X.
Winamp has historically included a number of Easter eggs: hidden features that are accessible via undocumented operations. One example is an image of Justin Frankel, one of Winamp's original authors, hidden in Winamp's About dialog box. The included easter eggs have changed with versions of Winamp, and over thirty have been documented elsewhere.
Unagi is the codename for the media playback engine derived from Winamp core technologies. AOL announced in 2004 that Unagi would be incorporated into AOL Media Player (AMP), in development. After beta testing, AMP was discontinued in 2005, but portions lived on in AOL's Web-based player.
^April 21, 1997 release date extracted from Winamp.exe 0.20a binary. This version still plays some constant-bit-rate MP3 files on Windows XP SP3, but can crash when paused and unpaused. Retrieved March 28, 2010.