Before there was iTunes, there was Winamp: a compact media player developed by Nullsoft.
Winamp was first released in 1997 and set itself apart from the crowd with a skinnable interface, as well as its infamous Winamp catchcry every time the software booted up: "it really whips the llama's ass".
With support for a multitude of formats from AAC, MIDI and WAV, Winamp saw its popularity boom in the halcyon days of the late 1990s when MP3 file sharing really took off. The program was small, meaning that it was one of the quickest media players on the market.
Winamp was bought out by AOL in 1999 in a deal worth US$400 million — this also included the acquisition of now-defunct internet radio website Spinner.com. Incidentally, that service was also shut down by AOL in August 2013.
Winamp versions for Android and Mac followed years later after the AOL acquisition, but the media player never again reached the same height of popularity that it had in the late 1990s.
The closure announcement was made on Winamp's website, which read:
Winamp.com and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013. Additionally, Winamp Media players will no longer be available for download. Please download the latest version before that date. See release notes for latest improvements to this last release. Thanks for supporting the Winamp community for over 15 years.
Ars Technica confirmed the closure with Geno Yoham, general director of Winamp.
The classic Winamp interface.
Nullsoft's relationship with AOL appeared troubled even in 2003 when Gnutella author and Winamp developer Justin Frankel wrote about his struggles on his website. "The company controls the most effective means of self-expression I have," he said. "This is unacceptable to me as an individual; therefore, I must leav (sic)."
"I don't know when it will be, but I'm not going to last much longer. I have nothing but respect for the company — I've just come to realise that it is time to do something different." Frankel left soon after Winamp 5.0 was released in 2003.
According to Ars Technica, Winamp still has millions of users worldwide, while former employees estimate its yearly revenue at US$6 million.
AOL will shut down Winamp on 20 December. Until then, the software is still available for download, alongside a library of thousands of skins.