Winamp is a media player for Windows, macOS and Android, originally developed by Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev by their company Nullsoft, which they later sold to AOL in 1999 for $80 million. It was then acquired by Radionomy in 2014. Since version 2 it has been sold as freemium and supports extensibility with plug-ins and skins, and features music visualization, playlist and a media library, supported by a large online community. Version 1 of Winamp was released in 1997, and grew quickly popular with over 3 million downloads, paralleling the developing trend of MP3 (music) file sharing. Winamp 2.0 was released on September 8, 1998. The 2.x versions were widely used and made Winamp one of the most downloaded Windows applications. By 2000, Winamp had over 25 million registered users and by 2001 it had 60 million users. A poor reception to the 2002 rewrite, Winamp3, was followed by the release of Winamp 5 in 2003, and a later release of version 5.5 in 2007.
Until the release of Winamp in 1997, WinPlay3 was the sole option for playing MP3-compressed music on Microsoft Windows.
Winamp was first released in 1997, when Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev, formerly students at the University of Utah, integrated their Windows user interface with the Advanced Multimedia Products (“AMP”) MP3 file playback engine. The name Winamp (originally spelled WinAMP) was a portmanteau of “Windows” and “AMP”. The minimalist WinAMP 0.20a was released as freeware on April 21, 1997. Its windowless, menu bar-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 developed by Advanced Multimedia Products co-founder Tomislav Uzelac, which was free for non-commercial use. WinAMP 0.92 was released as a freeware in May 1997. Within the standard Windows frame and menu bar, 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 track name, 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.
Version 1.006 was released June 7, 1997, renamed “Winamp” (lowercase). 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. Frankel formally founded Nullsoft Inc. in January 1998 and continued development of Winamp, which changed from freeware to $10 shareware. Despite the fact that there would be no extra features by paying $10, Winamp’s popularity and warm reception brought Nullsoft $100,000 a month that year from $10 paper checks in the mail from paying users. In March, Brian Litman, managing co-founder with Uzelac of Advanced Multimedia Products, which by then had been merged into 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 Winamp website as supporting plugins, of which it included two input plugins (MOD and MP3) and a visualization plugin. 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””. By July 1998, Winamp’s various versions had been downloaded over three million times.