Winamp died! And then it came back! Then died again! And now it is back once more, as the first candidate for the release of the resurrected Winamp 5.9 is available for download to a new generation that switched from MP3 files to streaming services years ago.
The transition from purchasing music on physical media such as CDs to digitally distributing it directly to computers and mobile devices was difficult. Ripping CDs or extracting the digital files they contain to a computer has always been relatively easy, but the small sizes of MP3 files make digital music files portable and easy to share on the Internet, sparking anti-piracy scandals. Music-sharing apps like Napster, Bearshare, and Limewire have come and gone, but through it all, one application remained a loyal companion to those who had amassed huge MP3 collections: Winamp, a lightweight but full-featured media player that worked without the bulk of other offerings like Apple’s iTunes or Microsoft’s Windows Media Player.
As the music industry finally figured out ways to securely sell music files online and eventually moved to streaming services where users never ended up with thousands of media files stored on a device, the need for a stand-alone media player like Winamp disappeared and after the application changed owners several times, active development ended with version 5.666, released in late 2013.
Four years later, in 2018, Winamp 5.8 made its way online, with the developers behind it promising major updates along the way that would add more advanced features like cloud streaming, but it would be another four years before Winamp 5.9 RC1 Build 9999 finally to be made available for download via the Winamp forums. Nostalgia seekers will be happy to see that not much has changed visually with Winamp – you even get the option to use the classic skins during installation – but under the hood, the code base has been upgraded from Visual Studio 2008 to Visual Studio 2019. This is an upgrade that will benefit the development team as begins to introduce new features, but also means that the new Winamp will require Windows 7 SP1 or later to run. Those of you still clinging to Windows XP and Vista will have to look for older versions of the amazing llama media player.
Computers have changed a lot since the heyday of Winamp, and while the media player looks mostly the same as it did when we all connected it to file sharing services decades ago, on a modern desktop with many screen resolutions, Winamp’s playback controls look ridiculously small. But the development team knows that there is a lot of work to be done to modernize Winamp, and with the successful transition to VS2019, it can set about adding support for modern digital audio formats and streaming services, and maybe even a few new trip previewers once they go through the release candidate bug list and work towards a more complete initial release.