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Winamp 5.5x featuring the new Bento skin
Developed by Nullsoft
Initial release April 21, 1997 (1997-04-21)
Stable release 5.551 (  (2009-3-9; 38 days ago) [+/−]
Preview release [1]  () [+/−]
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Linux (WA3 only)
Available in Multilingual
Type Media player
License Proprietary
Website Blog

Winamp is a proprietary media player written by Nullsoft, now a subsidiary of AOL. It is skinnable, multi-format freeware/shareware.

Winamp was first released by Justin Frankel in 1997.[1] Current Winamp development is credited to Ben Allison (Benski) and Maksim Tyrtyshny.[2] Winamp grew from 33 million users in February 2005 to over 57 million users in September 2006.[3][4][5]


[edit] Features

[edit] Playback formats

Besides MP3, Winamp supports a wide variety of contemporary and specialized music file formats, including MIDI, MOD, MPEG-1 audio layers 1 and 2, AAC, M4A, FLAC, WAV and Windows Media Audio. Winamp was one of the first common music players on Windows to support playback of Ogg Vorbis by default. It supports gapless playback for MP3 and AAC, and Replay Gain for volume leveling across tracks. In addition, Winamp can play and import music from audio CDs, optionally with CD-Text, and can also burn music to CDs.

Winamp supports playback of Windows Media Video and Nullsoft Streaming Video. For MPEG Video, AVI and other unsupported video types, Winamp uses Microsoft's DirectShow API for playback, allowing playback of most of the video formats supported by Windows Media Player. 5.1 Surround sound is supported where formats and decoders allow.

[edit] Media library

Winamp's media library supports full Unicode filenames and Unicode metadata for media files.

[edit] Podcatcher & streaming media

Winamp supports many types of streaming media. Its SHOUTcast technology provides free access to Internet radio and Internet television, and Winamp can also access XM Satellite Radio, and AOL Video content. It can access the Singingfish audio/video search engine. Winamp can also be used as an RSS media feeds aggregator capable of displaying articles and playing streaming media. SHOUTcast Wire provides a directory and RSS subscription system for podcasts.[6][7]

[edit] Media player device support

Winamp has extendable support for portable media players. Device plugins are currently included for iPods and Creative NOMADs, Mass Storage Compliant devices, and devices that support the Microsoft PlaysForSure and ActiveSync technologies, such as those running Windows Mobile.

In more recent versions of Winamp, an extension has been added to allow users to share their media libraries to their gaming consoles on the same network through Winamp Remote. This was created through a partnership with Orb. The same extension allows users to access their media libraries anywhere via internet connections.

[edit] Plug-ins

The Winamp AVS.

The Winamp software development kit allows software developers to extend Winamp's functionality through the use of plug-ins, which are categorized into the following seven types:

  • Input plug-ins decode media data contained in specific file formats.
  • Output plug-ins control the destination of decoded audio (such as the DirectSound device or direct-to-file writing).
  • Visualization plug-ins provide sound activated graphics.
  • DSP/Effect plug-ins manipulate audio (reverb, spacialization, equalization with preamp, compression, etc).
  • General Purpose plug-ins add functionality or extensions to Winamp (Media Library, alarm clock, or pause when logged out).
  • Media Library plug-ins add functionality or extensions to the Media Library plug-in (gen_ml, included with Winamp).
  • Device plug-ins add support of portable media players to the Portable Media Player plug-in (ml_pmp, included with Winamp)

Input plug-ins allow Winamp to play additional media formats. Easy development of specialized Input plug-ins contributed to Winamp's versatility compared to monolithic media players. For example, popular video game music has driven development of plug-ins to play back game console music files, such as NSF, USF, GBS, GSF, SID, VGM, SPC, PSF and PSF2.

Output plug-ins enable features such as sound effects (via DSP plugins) and visual effects (notably Advanced Visualization Studio, or AVS, and MilkDrop).

Other plug-ins included in the installer bundle activate features such as global hotkeys. Users can enable these plug-ins by selecting them during installation (a feature made possible by Winamp's use of NSIS to package the application).

A wide variety of plug-ins are available on the Winamp web site.[8]

[edit] Skins

Skins are aesthetic revisions of the Winamp graphical user interface (GUI). Winamp has published documentation on skin creation, and invites contributors to publish skins on As a result, freely available Winamp skins now number in the thousands.

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, but many skins found on remain committed to the "classic" skin specification. Online communities of skin designers, such as 1001 Winamp Skins and DeviantArt, and the active forums on, attest to the popularity of the feature and its flexibility as a medium for creative expression. As the number of independently produced works has increased, genres or categories of skins have emerged. Promoting celebrities, fashion models, films, cars, bands, brands, and other forms of entertainment remains a common staple of the medium. Artists have also created designs for their own sake — parodies of other interfaces, nostalgic emulations of old hardware and operating systems, hand drawn art, 3-dimension renderings employing transparencies, minimalist and high contrast designs, and clever implementations of vector graphics.

The default (classic) skin of Winamp was designed by Nullsoft employee Steve Gedikian.

[edit] Online Services

A Winamp online service is a web page, or web-based feature, embedded inside the Winamp software which interacts with the application to create an enhanced user experience. In order to use an online service users are required to have an internet connection and Winamp version 5.55 (or higher).[9] Users and Developers can create their own services by leveraging the Winamp Online Services API[10] to create expanded features and functionality. Some existing services available are SHOUTcast Radio, OurStage Radio, Songbook Lyrics and Spinner's MP3 of the Day.

The Winamp Developer Network is an official Winamp site designed to help facilitate community development by providing information and technical documentation on how to create and publish Skins, Plugins, & Online Services.

[edit] History

[edit] Initial releases

The minimalist WinAMP 0.20a was released as freeware on 21 April 1997.[1] 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 by Tomislav Uzelac, which was free for non-commercial use.[11] The acronym "AMP" stood for "Advanced Multimedia Products". Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev integrated this engine with their user interface.

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.

[edit] Winamp 1

Winamp 1

Version 1.006 was released June 7, 1997[12] 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[13] Frankel formally founded Nullsoft, Inc. in January 1998, and continued development of Winamp, which changed from freeware to $10 shareware.[14] In March, Uzelac's newly founded company, 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 website as supporting plugins, of which it included two input plugins (MOD and MP3) and a visualization plugin.[15] 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".[16]

[edit] Winamp 2

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 Microsoft Windows.[17] 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 Systems filed a federal lawsuit against Nullsoft in March 1999. PlayMedia was granted an injunction against distribution of Nitrane by Nullsoft, and the same month the lawsuit was settled with out-of-court licensing and confidentiality agreements. Soon after, Nullsoft switched to an ISO decoder from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the developers of the MP3 format. Nullsoft was bought by AOL in June 1999 for US$80 million.[18]

Winamp 2.10, released March 24, 1999 included a new version of the "Llama" demo.mp3 featuring a musical sting and bleating.

Nullsoft relaunched the Winamp-specific 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.[18]

[edit] Winamp3


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. 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 Wasabi cross-platform application framework and skinnable GUI toolkit was derived from parts of the Winamp3 source code. For Linux, Nullsoft released an alpha version of Winamp3 in October 9, 2001 but has not updated it despite continued user interest.[19]

[edit] Winamp 5

Winamp 5 featuring Winamp Modern skin

The Winamp 2 and Winamp3 branches were later fused into Winamp 5 — Nullsoft justified their non-sequential christening by quipping that 2 + 3 = 5 — taking the best parts from both applications. They also joked that "nobody wants to see a Winamp 4 skin" ('4 skin' being a pun on foreskin).[20] It was also joked that "Winamp 5 is so good they skipped a number." 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. Most of the Wasabi framework built for creating Winamp3 and its components was released as open source, and as of 2005 an active development effort has succeeded in making a standalone version of Wasabi, minus the skinning and scripting modules which were never released.

Winamp 5 comes in three versions. Lite and Full are freeware, and Pro requires registration and (as of October 2007) sells for US$19.95. The Lite version has far less functionality (largely supplementable with plugins) while still replicating most of Winamp 2's feature set in a far smaller installer. The Full version offers a richer feature set, including music ripping and CD burning at limited speeds (6x for ripping and 2x for burning). The Pro version features unlimited speed music ripping and CD burning and MP3 encoding.

Winamp 5 in Aero Preview

From version 5.2 onwards, support for synchronizing with an iPod is built-in.[21]

Winamp 5.5: The 10th Anniversary Edition was released on October 10, 2007,[22] ten years after the first release of Winamp. (A beta preview 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.[23] This version also dropped support for Windows 9x.

Version 5.5 displays the classic Winamp 2 interface when the Windows Aero taskbar preview is seen, instead of displaying the original window contents, as other programs do. There is a workaround, but it works only when Winamp is not minimized.

[edit] Easter eggs

Winamp has always included a number of Easter eggs, hidden features that are accessible via undocumented operations.

Here are two examples of Easter eggs included in Winamp 5 with the "modern skin" enabled:

  • Replacing the beat analyzer with two llamas that bang heads to the beats:
With the default (Modern) skin chosen, stretch the main window until the Beat Analyzer appears; it says "BEAT" under it. Hold down Ctrl+Alt+Shift and click exactly at the center of the Beat Analyzer, then play a song with fast beats and loud bass.
  • Changing the opacity of Winamp with the beats:
While holding Ctrl+Alt+Shift type "nullsoft" in the main window. This must be typed in lowercase, (nullsoft) and not uppercase (NULLSOFT). Play a song with beats and loud bass to enjoy the effect.
In older versions of Winamp, with the default Base Skin enabled, doing this would toggle the top bar text between WINAMP and "IT REALLY WHIPS THE LLAMA'S ASS!"

[edit] Derivative works

  • Unagi is the codename for the media playback engine derived from Winamp core technologies as distributed with the AOL software or as an ActiveX download. It powers many AOL media projects, e.g., video@netscape, video@aol, AOL Radio, media playback within AIM.[24]
  • The AIMTunes feature included with AIM 6.5 was implemented with components and code from Winamp.[24]
  • XMMS is a player for Unix-like systems (Linux and Unix), which has a user interface that is extraordinarily similar to the Winamp 2 interface. In fact, it can use unmodified Winamp 2 skins. A couple of other media players, Beep Media Player and Audacious, are based on XMMS.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b April 21, 1997 release date extracted from Winamp.exe 0.20a binary. This version still plays some constant-bit-rate MP3s on Windows XP SP2, but can crash when paused/unpaused.
  2. ^ Developer credits extracted from Winamp 5.55 credits screen.
  3. ^ "AOL Unveils New Winamp Version with Enhanced Dashboard and Remote Features". AOL LLC. Retrieved on 2008-03-15. 
  4. ^ Time Warner - News Room - AOL Unveils New Winamp Version with Enhanced Dashboard and Remote Features
  5. ^ All Business - AOL Unveils New Winamp Version with Enhanced Dashboard and Remote Features
  6. ^ Time Warner - AOL Introduces New Podcast Offerings
  7. ^ Wired - Winamp Packs on Features for 10th-Anniversary Edition
  8. ^ Plugins
  9. ^ (2009-04-16). "What are Online Services?". Retrieved on 2009-04-16. 
  10. ^ (2009-04-16). "Winamp Developer Network". Retrieved on 2009-04-16. 
  11. ^ License info from Winamp 1.006 Help menu.
  12. ^ Version 1.006 release date from help screen, version from executable binary.
  13. ^ News page Playmedia website. Retrieved 2007-04-01.
  14. ^ Po Bronson (July 1998). "Rebootlegger". Retrieved on 2007-04-07. 
  15. ^ (1998-12-02). "New Features listing". Retrieved on 2007-04-07.  via
  16. ^ DEMO.MP3 15592 bytes, 32 kbit/s, 22 kHz, recorded in "1997" "Exclusively for Nullsoft" by JJ McKay. Voice only, no music stinger.
  17. ^ "Power of 10: The past, present, and future of digital living". Top 10 downloads of the past 10 years. CNET Networks, Inc.. Retrieved on 2006-07-26. 
  18. ^ a b "AOL Who We Are Website.". AOL.COM. 2004-10-19. Retrieved on 2007-04-09.  from
  19. ^ Winamp 3 for Linux at FileForum
  20. ^ "Winamp Media Player FAQ". 
  21. ^ Winamp Media Player Version History
  22. ^ "AOL Announces Winamp 10th Anniversary Edition". 
  23. ^ Winamp 5.5 Changelog
  24. ^ a b File listings extracted from installation path and binaries.

[edit] External links

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