Winamp logo.png
Winamp 5.5x featuring the Bento skin
Developer(s) Nullsoft
Initial release April 21, 1997 (1997-04-21)
Stable release 5.622 Build 3189  (October 26, 2011; 26 days ago (2011-10-26)) [+/−]
Preview release [+/−]
Written in C / C++
Operating system Windows
Mac OS X (Beta)
Linux (WA3 only)
Available in Multilingual
Type Media player
License Proprietary
Website Blog

Winamp is a media player for Windows-based PCs and Android devices, written by Nullsoft, now a subsidiary of AOL. It is proprietary freeware/shareware, multi-format, extensible with plug-ins and skins, and is noted for its graphical sound visualization, playlist, and media library features. Winamp was developed by American programmer Justin Frankel and Russian programmer Dmitry Boldyrev, and its popularity grew quickly, along with the developing trend of MP3 file-sharing.



Playback formats

Winamp supports music playback using MP3, MIDI, MOD, MPEG-1 audio layers 1 and 2, AAC, M4A, FLAC, WAV and WMA. Winamp was one of the first common music players on Windows to support playback of Ogg Vorbis by default.[2] It supports gapless playback for MP3 and AAC, and ReplayGain for volume leveling across tracks. CD support includes playing and import music from audio CDs, optionally with CD-Text, and burning music to CDs. The standard version limits maximum burn speed and datarate; the "Pro" version removes these limitations.[3]

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.[4]

Media Library

At installation, Winamp scans the user's system for media files to add to the Media Library database.[5] It supports full Unicode filenames and Unicode metadata for media files.[6] In the Media Library user interface pane, under Local Media, several selectors (Audio, Video, date and frequency) permit display of subsets of media files with greater detail.[5]

Adding album art and track tags

Get Album Art permits retrieval of cover art, and confirmation before adding the image to the database. Autotagging analyzes a track's audio using the Gracenote service and retrieves the song's ID2 and ID3 metadata.[5]


Winamp can also be used as an RSS media feeds aggregator capable of displaying articles, downloading or playing that same content as streaming media. SHOUTcast Wire provides a directory and RSS subscription system for podcasts.[5][7]

Media player device support

Winamp has extendable support for portable media players and Mass Storage Compliant devices, Microsoft PlaysForSure and ActiveSync, and syncs unprotected music to the iPod.[5][8]

Media Monitor

Winamp Media Monitor allows web-based browsing and bookmarking music blog websites and automatically offering for streaming or downloading all MP3 files there. The Media Monitor is preloaded with music blog URLs.[5]

Winamp Remote

Winamp Remote allows remote playback (streaming) of unprotected media files on the user's PC via the Internet. Remote adjusts bitrate based on available bandwidth, and can be controlled by web interface, Wii, PS3, Xbox and mobile phones.[5]


In February 1998, Winamp was rewritten as a "general purpose audio player"[9] with a plug-in architecture. This feature was received well by reviewers.[10][11] Development was early, diverse, and rapid: 66 plugins were published by November 1998.[12][13] The Winamp software development kit (SDK) allows software developers to create seven different types of plug-ins.[14]

  • Input: decodes specific file formats.
  • Output: sends data to specific devices or files.
  • Visualization: provides sound activated graphics.
  • DSP/Effect: manipulates audio for special effects.
  • General Purpose plug-ins add convenience or UI features(Media Library, alarm clock, or pause when logged out).
  • Media Library plug-ins add functions to the Media Library plug-in.
  • Portables plug-ins support portable media players.[15]

Plug-in development support increased Winamp's flexibility for, for example, a plethora of specialized plug-ins for game console music files such as NSF,[16] USF, GBS,[17] GSF,[18] SID,[19] VGM,[19] SPC,[19] PSF and PSF2.


Skins are bitmap files which alter the aesthetic design of the Winamp graphical user interface (GUI) and can add functionality, with scripting.[20] Winamp published documentation on skin creation[21] in 1998 with the release of Winamp 2, and invited Winamp users to publish skins on As of 2000 there were nearly 3000 Winamp skins available.[22][23] The ability to use skins contributed to Winamp's popularity early in MP3 development.[24] With the increasing number of available skins, genres or categories of skins developed, such as "Stereo", "Anime", and "Ugly". Online communities of skin designers such as and have contributed thousands of designs.[25][26] Designers see skins as an opportunity to be creative:[27] nontraditional examples have included Klingon, iPod, and Etch-a-sketch designs.[28]

The Winamp skin format is the most popular, the most commonly adopted by other media player software, and is usable across platforms.[29] One example is the XMMS player for Linux and Unix systems, which can use unmodified Winamp 2 skin files.[30][31]

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.[32]


Initial releases

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 Technology)" MP3 file playback engine.[33] The minimalist WinAMP 0.20a was released as freeware on 21 April 1997.[34][35] 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 developed by Advanced Multimedia Products co-founder Tomislav Uzelac, which was free for non-commercial use.[36]

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.

Winamp 1

Winamp 1

Version 1.006 was released June 7, 1997[37][38] 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.[39] Frankel formally founded Nullsoft Inc. in January 1998 and continued development of Winamp, which changed from freeware to $10 shareware.[38] In March, Uzelac's company, 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.[citation needed]

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.[9] 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".[40][41]

By July 1998, Winamp's various versions had been downloaded over three million times.[38]

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 Windows.[42] 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 filed a federal lawsuit against Nullsoft in March 1999. In May, 1999, PlayMedia was granted an injunction by Federal Judge A. Howard Matz against distribution of Nitrane by Nullsoft, and the same month the lawsuit was settled out-of-court with licensing and confidentiality agreements.[35] Soon after, Nullsoft switched to an ISO decoder from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the developers of the MP3 format.

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

Nullsoft was bought by AOL in June 1999 for US$80 million in stock.[43][44]

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".[43]



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)".[45][46] 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 in 2003,[47] even alluding to it humorously.[48] 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 on October 9, 2001 but has not updated it despite continued user interest.[49]

Winamp 5

Winamp 5 featuring Winamp Modern skin

The Winamp 2 and Winamp3 branches were later fused into Winamp 5. Nullsoft joked that "nobody wants to see a Winamp 4 skin" ('4 skin' being a pun on foreskin).[50] It was also joked that "Winamp 5 is so good they skipped a number" and "Winamp 2+3=5,"[51] thus making the version history a Fibonacci sequence. 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.

From version 5.2 onwards, support for synchronizing with an iPod is built-in.[52]

Winamp 5.5

Winamp 5.5: The 10th Anniversary Edition was released on October 10, 2007,[53] 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. This version dropped support for Windows 9x.[5][54]

As of version 5.55, Winamp development is credited to Ben Allison (Benski) and Maksim Tyrtyshny.[55]

Winamp for Android

Released as a beta product in October 2010, the Android version for OS 2.1 includes syncing with Winamp desktop (ver. 5.59 beta+) over USB or WiFi.[1] It was received with some enthusiasm in the consumer blog press.[56][57]

Winamp Sync for Mac

Winamp was rumored to be coming to Mac as far back as 2001, but the software was never released. In October 2011, Winamp Sync for Mac was introduced as a Beta release. It is the first Winamp version for the Apple Macintosh platform and runs under Mac OS X 10.6 and above. Its focus is on syncing the Winamp Library to Winamp for Android and the iTunes Music Library (hence the name, "Winamp Sync for Mac"). Nonetheless, a full Winamp Library and player features are included. The developer's blog states that the Winamp Sync for Mac Beta will pave the way for future Winamp-related development under Mac OS X.[58]

Easter eggs

Winamp has historically included a number of Easter eggs: hidden features that are accessible via undocumented operations. One example is an image of Justin Frankel, one of Winamp's original authors, hidden in Winamp's About dialog box.[59] The included easter eggs have changed with versions of Winamp, and over thirty have been documented elsewhere.[60]

Derivative works

Unagi is the codename for the media playback engine derived from Winamp core technologies. AOL announced in 2004 that Unagi would be incorporated into AOL Media Player (AMP), in development.[61] After beta testing, AMP was discontinued in 2005, but portions lived on in AOL's web-based player.[62]

See also


  1. ^ a b Winamp for Android: now in beta. Winamp blog. October 20, 2010.
  2. ^ Mariano, Gwendolyn (May 1, 2002). "Winamp glitch may benefit open source". CNET News. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  3. ^ Winamp Features Comparison Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  4. ^ Dixon, Douglas; Dreier, Troy; France, Jasmine (August 6, 2006). "Nullsoft Winamp 5.23 Review & Editor's Rating". CNET News. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Van Buskirk, Eliot (November 10, 2007). "Winamp Packs on Features for 10th-Anniversary Edition". Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  6. ^ Hans-Christian Dirscherl (February 14, 2007). "Improved Unicode support with Winamp 5.33" (in German). PC World Magazine. Retrieved 2010-06-28. "Winamp 5.33 especially improves Unicode support." 
  7. ^ Graffeo, Deana (September 14, 2005). "AOL Introduces New Podcast Offerings" AOL; Time Warner. Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  8. ^ Hart-Davis, Guy (2007). "How to do everything: iPod & iTunes". McGraw-Hill. Google books. Pp. 306-309. ISBN 978-0072263879. Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  9. ^ a b (December 2, 1998). "New Features listing". Archived from the original on December 2, 1998. Retrieved April 7, 2007. 
  10. ^ Gibbs, Mark (July 17, 2000). "The Elephant remembers to remember audio". Network World 17 (29): 40. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  11. ^ Smith, Will (February 2000). "Complete Guide to MP3s". Maximum PC (Future US, Inc.) 5 (2): 44. Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Winamp Plug-ins". Nullsoft Inc.. November 24, 1998. Archived from the original on December 5, 1998. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  13. ^ As of June 2010, lists over 920 plugins of all types.
  14. ^ "Winamp Developers". AOL, AOL Developers Network. January 4, 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  15. ^ Robertson, Michael; Simpson, Ron (1999). The official guide to MP3. ISBN 978-0967057408. Retrieved March 28, 2010.  (preview)
  16. ^ "NotSoFatso NSF Player Plugin". (Slick Productions). Retrieved 2010-06-22.
  17. ^ Nezplug/Nezplug++ "GBS Winamp Plugin"
  18. ^ "Several GSF-compatible Winamp Plugins". Fantasy Anime;
  19. ^ a b c "Chipamp Winamp Plugin bundle". Retrieved 2010-06-22.
  20. ^ Tidwell, Jenifer (November 2005). Designing Interfaces:Patterns for Effective Interaction Design. O'Reilly Books. ISBN 9780596008031. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  21. ^ Beggs, Josh and Thede, Dylan (2001). Designing Web Audio. O'Reilly Media. p. 191. ISBN 1565923537. Retrieved 2010-06-22. 
  22. ^ Hacker, Scot (2000). MP3: The Definitive Guide. O'Reilly Books. p. 141. ISBN 1-56592-661-7. Retrieved 2010-06-23.  Out of print. Online: O'Reilly Safari Books Online ($).
  23. ^ As of June 2010, lists over 1900 Classic skins and over 700 Modern skins.
  24. ^ Dabbs, Alistair (2002). Interface Design: Effective Design of Graphical User Inferfaces. Watson-Guptill. ISBN 0823025160. Retrieved 2010-06-22. 
  25. ^ Hacker, p.141.
  26. ^ As of June 2010, 1001 Winamp Skins lists over 3000 Winamp skins in over 20 categories. lists over 500 Winamp skins.
  27. ^ Tidwell, p. 308.
  28. ^ Tidwell, p. 286.
  29. ^ Beggs, p. 190.
  30. ^ Murray, John (July, 2002). "Building the Lo-Fat Linux Desktop". AUUGN (AUUG Inc.) 23 (2). ISSN 1035-7521. Retrieved 2010-06-22. 
  31. ^ Hacker, p.78.
  32. ^ "Winamp Frequently Asked Questions - Skins". AOL. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  33. ^ Millard, A. J. (2005). America on record: a history of recorded sound. Cambridge University Press. p. 391. ISBN 978-0521835152. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  34. ^ April 21, 1997 release date extracted from Winamp.exe 0.20a binary. This version still plays some constant-bit-rate MP3 files on Windows XP SP3, but can crash when paused and unpaused. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  35. ^ a b Haring, Bruce (2000) "Beyond the charts: MP3 and the digital music revolution". JM Northern Media. p. 101. ISBN 9780967451701. Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  36. ^ License info from Winamp 1.006 Help menu.
  37. ^ Version 1.006 release date from help screen, version from executable binary.
  38. ^ a b c Bronson, Po (July 1998). "Rebootlegger". Retrieved April 7, 2007. 
  39. ^ "Playmedia News". Playmedia. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved April 1, 2007. 
  40. ^ DEMO.MP3 15592 bytes, 32 kbit/s, 22 kHz, recorded in "1997" "Exclusively for Nullsoft" by JJ McKay. Voice only, no music stinger.
  41. ^ Kushner, David (January 13, 2004). "The World's Most Dangerous Geek". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2007-03-21. Retrieved 2010-07-03. 
  42. ^ Morrison, Kelly Green and Whitehouse, Karen (2006). "Power of 10: The past, present, and future of digital living". Top 10 downloads of the past 10 years. CNET Networks, Inc.. Retrieved July 26, 2006. 
  43. ^ a b "AOL - Who We Are - History". AOL.COM. October 19, 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-10-19. Retrieved April 9, 2004. 
  44. ^ Haring, Bruce (July 14, 1999). "Listening to parents, not college, worth $80M AOL loves how Frankel makes MP3 files sing". USA Today.,+1999&author=Bruce+Haring&pub=USA+TODAY&desc=Listening+to+parents,+not+college,+worth+$80M+AOL+loves+how+Frankel+makes+MP3+files+sing&pqatl=google. 
  45. ^ Parekh, Ranjan (2006). Principles of Multimedia. Tata McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0070588332. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  46. ^ Mook, Nate (August 10, 2002). "Winamp3 Makes its Official Debut". Betanews Inc.. Retrieved 2010-03-31.. 
  47. ^ Release date from " homepage for version 2". Nullsoft. Archived from the original on August 9, 2003. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  48. ^ " homepage". Nullsoft. Archived from the original on August 20, 2003. Retrieved March 31, 2010. "Almost As New As Winamp 2, Nullsoft Winamp3" 
  49. ^ "Winamp 3 for Linux". FileForum. Betanews Inc.. October 9, 2001. Retrieved March 28, 2010.. 
  50. ^ "Winamp Media Player FAQ". Media Player Help. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  51. ^ "Winamp Media Player FAQ". Media Player Help. Retrieved July 6, 2010. 
  52. ^ "Winamp Media Player Version History"., Media player help. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  53. ^ "AOL Announces Winamp 10th Anniversary Edition". (press release). Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  54. ^ "Winamp 5.5 Changelog"
  55. ^ Developer credits extracted from Winamp 5.55 credits screen. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  56. ^ Conneally, Tim (December 28, 2010). "The not-so-obvious top 15 Android apps for 2010". Beta News. 
  57. ^ Flatley, Joseph L. (October 21, 2010). "Winamp comes to Android, one of our childhood dreams is realized". Engadget. 
  58. ^ "Introducing Winamp for Mac Sync Beta - Winamp Blog". Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  59. ^ Beggs, Josh; Thede, Dylan (2001). "Designing Web Audio". O'Reilly Media, p. 189. ISBN 1565923537
  60. ^ Wolf, David; Wolf, Annette. "Application Easter Eggs - Winamp". The Easter Egg Archive. Archived from the original on 2011-06-14. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  61. ^ "AOL: new players, new browser (Polish)" PC World Online - Polish edition (in English), December 13, 2004.
  62. ^ Mook, Nate (December 20, 2005) "AOL Discontinues new Media Player". Retrieved 2010-03-31.

External links

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