Perhaps many readers of the GT remember about Winamp – it once stood on almost every PC. Easy to use, the presence of plug-ins, including graphics, sound quality – all this has led to the fact that Winamp has become one of the most popular players, if not the most popular.
Its history began in 1997, when American Justin Frankel presented an alpha version of his project – WinAMP 0.20a. But already 18 months after the release of the program, it was downloaded by 15 million people. This, of course, was a success.
The new MP3 player solved the main problem that bothered PC users of the late 90's. Which problem? Organize your music files (talking about mp3) and play them. Yes, there were various programs, including the WinPlay3 player, but it was all wrong. The functionality of such software was minimal, and the players themselves were units.
Frackel decided to develop his own player because "I always made software that I would like to use myself," as he said afterwards. And in the mid-90's, none of the players could create normal playlists, work with skins or demonstrate beautiful visual effects. Those programs that could do anything at all were simply huge. Minimalistichnost and today the hallmark of the player Winamp. For example, the size of the installer for the same Mac still does not exceed the amount of 4 MB.
As mentioned above, for the first time Windows Advanced Multimedia Products (hence its abbreviated name 0 WinAMP) was introduced to the world in April 1997. It was a free program. A little later the player became "sharovarnym", that is, distributed on a shareware license with a price of $ 10. Do you think nobody paid? In fact, they paid, and not bad. The most interesting thing is that users who did not want to give their blood for a media player, had access to absolutely all the functions of the program. Despite this, people paid, and some time after Winamp became popular, he began to bring his creator for $ 100,000 monthly. Checks were sent to the company by mail.
Further development of the player was conducted within the framework of the company Nullsoft (its logo became the lama). The project team consisted of only a few people, enthusiasts of their business. Their enthusiasm led to the fact that the player became even better, in a very short period of time.
In 1999, the company and player bought AOL, paying for this asset as much as $ 100 million. Frankel went to work in AOL, being already a very rich man (and that's in 20 years). By the way, the company Nullsoft received offers to buy and before AOL. For the time being developers of the player resisted corporations and their suggestions. But after the amount of $ 100 million was announced, it became difficult to resist, so Nullsoft and Winamp were decided to sell.
Then everyone who was familiar with this transaction expected a lot from Nullsoft's work with AOL, because America OnLine in the 90s and 2000s was a very strong player in the IT market. It was expected that the company will be able to do something significant in the music sphere. Winamp was at the height of popularity and received hundreds of millions of page views in the late 90's. In addition, he made a profit, and very good. At that time, the number of users of the player numbered already 60 million people and many of them paid.
Unfortunately, the cooperation between the creator of the player and its buyer was not fruitful. Frankel wanted to improve the program, based on his understanding of a quality product. But the corporation held a slightly different opinion – for her the main thing was getting profit. There is nothing wrong with this, but because of this state of affairs, work was not done in the direction in which the creators of the player wanted to conduct it. Constant administrative problems, bureaucratization and lack of initiative on the part of the leadership led to the fact that the active development of the player ceased.
In principle, for a while Frankel's work as an AOL employee was not bad. But over time, Nullsoft was transformed into a corporate unit with its own tasks. And the company, despite the fact that it was bought by AOL, did not want to. At this time, in order to "do something useful" the Nullsoft leader created Gnutella, a decentralized system where there was no main server and the possibility of a complete shutdown. Frankel presented his offspring in early 2000, saying that "AOL can still do good things." And it was really so. However, intra-corporate problems hampered AOL's structural subdivision to develop its product.
Almost all companies that became part of AOL at various times have always been at the second position with the management of the corporation. The company identified the main unit (which gave priority) and secondary. All problems were solved first inside the AOL itself, which sometimes took a lot of time, and then the questions and queries of units like Nullsoft were already considered. Another negative point – not the best attitude of US residents to the AOL itself. She spent an intensive marketing campaign for many years and managed to make herself, if not enemies, then people who treated her negatively. Well, the fact that during the installation of the player users began to receive offers to install something else, influenced the popularity of Winamp itself.
AOL itself did not have a strategy for the development of its musical unit. But the company could become something like Pandora or Spotify. She had all the possibilities for this – a music player, a content library, a radio service, and talented engineers. But it did not work out.
And already in 2001, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod. At that time, there were other hardware MP3 players. But they were not convenient, and they were used, more likely, from despair. But the iPod was something new, and this new one was very convenient. By 2003, Apple had sold a million iPods and opened the iTunes Music Store. As a result, many geeks and music lovers moved into the camp of Apple and forgot about Winamp and AOL.
And even then the leadership of the latter did not catch on. "AOL has done a lot to make its development impossible," said one of the representatives of the Winamp team in the early 2000s. "More than anyone else. They bureaucratized any decision. Good ideas just died. " AOL launched its own music service, MusicNet. But a limited number of music races enabled Apple to get ahead.
Frankel spoke about his work in AOL: "I always hoped that they would look back and realize that they were killing the player, after which attempts would begin to find a more suitable way of development. But AOL seems to be too busy with its own internal policies to do anything else. "
In 2004, Nullsoft employees who were at the source decided to leave it , And do something else. Nevertheless, in 2009 the player still had loyal users – and a lot. As many as 70 million people continued to work with the player, listening to their favorite music for interesting visual effects (there were a lot of plug-ins by that time). Then, in 2004, shortly before his dismissal, Frankel wrote several lines about his impressions of cooperation with AOL on his website: "For me, programming is a form of self-expression. The company controls the most effective means of self-expression that I have. This is unacceptable for me, as for individuality, so I must leave. "
A new story of Winamp
After the departure of the founder of Nullsoft, AOL almost ceased to deal with the player. No, the program was updated and even received all new users. So, in 2007 the player was used by 90 million people. This is 30 million more than at the time of Nullsoft's purchase. At the same time, Winamp developed a small group of programmers of 6 people. There was no development strategy, or it was not viable.
After a while, the management nevertheless paid attention to this problem and decided to actively develop the development of Winamp. Suddenly it turned out that the player has not only English-speaking users, but also representatives of many other language groups. As a result, it was decided to provide technical support to users from Germany, Poland, Russia, France. In addition, the AOL drew attention to what is called today the "freemium model." The main functional was quite working, but here "buns" had to be bought.
in 2010 appeared the Android-version of the player. A year later, the Mac version was released. A few years later it was announced that Winamp support was discontinued. A number of media outlets wrote that "Winamp is everything". Fortunately, it turned out not so, the player still keeps afloat and quite successfully. At the moment the number of Winamp users is 30 million people. This is still very much, and it is clear that the player is not dead. Since the release of the Android version, users have installed this application more than 19 million times.
AOL is not now the owner of Winamp. All assets were purchased by Radionomy in 2014. A year later, in December 2015, Vivendi S.A.R.L bought 64% of Radionomy shares. Current owners claim that Winamp and SHOUTcast have become one of their most significant assets. Despite the fact that Winamp has not been updated for several years, there is a possibility that this will happen.
Winamp itself can be redeemed by former owners, in any case, talk about this. Whatever it was, but the player is far from dead, it continues to exist. Although, probably, it is contrary to and not due to circumstances.