Winamp used to be the most-used media player on the planet as the calendar ticked over to into the new millennium. In 2001, Winamp had more than 60 million registered users (along with millions more who didn’t have an account), and it was the most extensible, efficient, and skinnable media player of the day. Winamp’s popularity reached its peak right around when Windows Vista came onto the scene and, thanks to Microsoft’s meddling with sound APIs, things didn’t sound as good as they did before. The company’s userbase declined steadily until it was acquired in 2014 by Radionomy – who’s now announced that a brand new version of Winamp will arrive in 2019, fully modernised for modern-day operating systems.
In a TechCrunch interview with Radionomy CEO Alexandre Saboundjian, it was revealed that the new version of Winamp won’t be anything like the original or even Winamp 5.666, the currently shipping desktop version. Instead, version 5.8 for the desktop will be the last old-style client available, and all work and manpower will switch over to the new version, Winamp 6, due out next year.
“There will be a completely new version next year, with the legacy of Winamp but a more complete listening experience,” said Saboundjian. “You can listen to the MP3s you may have at home, but also to the cloud, to podcasts, to streaming radio stations, to a playlist you perhaps have built. People want one single experience. I think Winamp is the perfect player to bring that to everybody. And we want people to have it on every device.”
Saboundjian’s vision for Winamp 6 is that it acts as an aggregator for multiple services, pulling data in from sources that aren’t related to Winamp itself. If you’ve ever used Pidgin, that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about here. Saboundjian also makes it clear that Winamp 6 is geared towards a “mobile audio” experience, which means it’s not going to be as full-featured as the original app, and it will be cross-platform.
Whether it can compete on this level is the big question. Winamp launches straight into a market dominated by Apple iTunes, Google Play Music, and Spotify. There will be some synergy with Shoutcast, an online radio platform also available from Radionomy, but it’s integrating the right access to other clients that will be key. Will Apple allow them to piggy-back off their network somehow? It’s unlikely. But I’d like to see them try anyway.
If you’re keen on some nostalgia and good old-fashioned llama-whipping, download Winamp 5.666 here. There is, sadly, no Linux client.