Winamp, the popular 3rd-party Windows application for digital audio playback (usually of files ripped from CDs or downloaded via peer-to-peer file sharing networks), is back. Developers posted the latest build of the software (Winamp 5.9 RC1 Build 9999) late last month, four years since its last update. The current build “is the culmination of 4 years’ work” since the last release—with a pandemic-related hiatus baked in—by two different development teams. The application has been migrated to a more current codebase (VS2019), with new features expected to be added after testing.
At the peak of the download era, Winamp was renowned for its ability to play most popular audio formats and the customization of the user interface with trippy visualizers and unique “skins” that changed the application’s appearance. With the proliferation of the iTunes Store and later, digital streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, Winamp’s popularity waned. In 2013, parent company AOL shut down its development. The company was sold to the Belgian digital audio company Radionomy shortly after. The last version (5.8) before this latest update was released in 2018 after a premature leak pressured developers to publish it themselves.
Check out Pitchfork’s “Longform” feature “The Obsessive World of Digital Music Collectors” and “The Reboot of Winamp Won’t Bring Back the Joy of MP3s” on the Pitch.