More than 16 years after its first release, Winamp is shutting down. "Winamp.com and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013," reads a short post on the official site. Folks have until then to grab the latest—and final—version of the media player software.
Winamp was first released in 1997, and it became wildly popular as the MP3 scene exploded. By 2007, 90 million people were reportedly using the software. That number had dropped to around 30 million as of last year, with only a small fraction hailing from North America.
AOL purchased Winamp's maker, Nullsoft, for $80 million in 1999, and the former Internet giant has long been blamed for the software's decline. It certainly didn't help that Winamp3, which was released a few years after AOL took the reins, was so horribly broken that most users reverted back to older versions. Even Winamp returned to its old codebase for the next release, which skipped to version five in part to distance itself from the abomination that was Winamp3.
According to venture capitalist Josh Felser, who was quoted by Ars Technica, AOL "had been trying to sell [Winamp] for months." Felser couldn't seal the deal, though it looks like he was offering only $5 million. AOL apparently preferred to put Winamp out to pasture, instead. At least the final release should continue functioning after Winamp.com closes its doors.
Winamp's shuttering hits particularly close to home for me; the software has been my primary music player since those early releases back in 1997. We've had some good times together, me and Winamp, and I'm not going to abandon it just because AOL has pulled the plug. No, I'm going to soldier on with the final release—not out of loyalty, but because I've yet to find something that I like more. Although I've tried other media players over the years, I always end up coming back to Winamp for its extensive suite of visualization plugins and its familiar, customizable UI.