An immensely cherished link to our collective digital past, by means of a software dating back to the early days of the Internet, is being severed. Winamp, the fodder of every music hoarder who ever existed and the butt of several llama jokes, is soon to be discontinued. After December 20, there’ll be no more of Winamp. If that isn’t tear-jerkingly emotional, we don’t know what is.
Winamp still remains one of the most popular music players on desktops but ever since the advent of the iPod and iTunes user share has dipped. In 2004, Nullsoft, the developer of Winamp, was bought by AOL for $80 million. Even now, Winamp is said to generate about $6 million of revenue annually for AOL, so the reason behind the decision to shut it down remains a strange one.
The first version of Winamp (0.2a) was launched in 1997 as freeware by Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev with a focus on minimalism and MP3 playback. Winamp continued to evolve and soon after v2.0 released, it quickly became one of the most downloaded software on Windows. Winamp3 was released in 2002, following which in 2003, Winamp 5, the biggest visual change in the player’s history (and the final ‘major’ version upgrade), was launched. Winamp v5.66 was released recently, and will probably be the final official update for the music player.
But here is the good news! Since Winamp is primarily an offline software, you can continue to use it, just make sure you download and keep a copy of the installer safely backed up and tucked away, although we’re sure there will be a million sites out there from which you could continue to download the installer. However, the death of official support could mean that Winamp users may be left out in the cold if incompatibilities with any future versions of Windows should arise. One way this could be dealt with is if the Winamp source code is released, although considering AOL’s background, that seems unlikely.
On a personal note, I have been using Winamp since my schooldays back in 1999 and still continue to use it every day. Despite owning an iPhone, I continue to use Winamp because in my experience iTunes on Windows is probably one of the worst things that Apple’s name has ever been associated with. As I have a large music collection and have an obsession with ID3 tags, album artwork and organising my music, I have yet to come across a better music player to help me sort everything out. Unless Windows forces me to stop using Winamp, I plan to continue using it but I still feel sad that the people behind it are no longer there.
Of course, if you don’t want Winamp, there are some really great alternatives.
Five great (free) alternatives to Winamp
Many of you must have already begun looking for a new music player. Well, stop, because you don’t really need to. Just because official support for Winamp is being yanked, doesn’t really mean that the player is dead. You can continue using Winamp till kingdom comes.
Nevertheless, if you do want to step away from Winamp and look at other desktop music players with an official support lifeline, then here are five of the best.
The true Winamp alternative, Media Monkey does everything that Winamp can (and a little bit more). If you have a large music library and have compulsive tendencies when it comes to keeping it organised, Media Monkey will suit you.
Media Monkey also supports a huge variety of audio formats including high fidelity ones like WAV, FLAC and OGG apart from common ones like MP3 and AAC. Media Monkey also supports plug-ins and skins, so if that was what you loved about Winamp, then you will also learn to love Media Monkey.
If what attracted you to Winamp was its ‘mini’ avatar which you could use to quickly queue up and play individual tracks, then you should look at Foobar2000.
Foobar is light on system resources, has a simple UI and is blazing fast even on underpowered machines. While Foobar is not the best option to manage large organised libraries, it can still do that provided you spend some time customising it. Foobar also supports all the popular audio formats including OGG and FLAC.
AIMP3 is another music player reminiscent of Winamp’s ‘mini’ version. It offers a single pane view in which you can queue up individual songs or playlists.
However, if you want to manage your entire library, you can still do so by jumping to the album manager option. It won’t be provide as much information up front as Winamp, but it works.
AIMP3 also offers a ton of customisation options to change the way it works and looks, and also a whole bunch of equaliser options and presets.
Download: http://www.aimp2 .us/aimp3-download.php
MusicBee is another very good alternative to consider if keeping a large music library organized is your priority. Like Winamp and Media Monkey, MusicBee also lets you view your entire music library at a glance through multiple panes for tracks, albums and artists etc.
Auto-tagging and manual tagging are also built-in features along with support for custom playlists and online information on the artist you may be listening to.
Windows Media Player
Yes, I know, I know. I’ll wait till you finish laughing. Done? Good. There’s a reason why Windows Media Player still remains the most popular music player on Windows. And it’s not just because it comes pre-installed on Windows (although that is a big reason).
WMP is an easy to use player whether you want to use it to play single songs and playlists or manage your music library. WMP may not have the best format support (unless you install codecs manually) but it is a good looking software that’s easy to pick up and use and suited for people who want to just listen to music and not mess around with the player itself.
The Elephant in the Room: iTunes
So, you must be wondering why I didn’t include iTunes in the above five, even though it is undoubtedly one of the most popular media players on the planet.
There’s a simple reason for that: iTunes on Windows is unwieldier than a drunken one-legged elephant on a unicycle with a punctured tire. Everything takes an inordinate amount of time to do in iTunes, from starting it up to downloading online information to syncing music to your iPhone.
In fact, despite owning an iPhone, I seldom kickstart iTunes and instead rely on Copy Trans Manager for almost everything music related.
However, if you do plan on buying a lot of music from iTunes (iTunes definitely has some killer deals on music for Indian users) and use other services like iTunes Match and also own multiple Apple devices, then iTunes will suit you.