Winamp, released in April, 1997, was the first MP3 player to gain wide acceptance, fueled by the exponential adoption of the internet and the convenience of the relatively new format for music. The software was eventually acquired by AOL in 1999 for $80 million and would draw the likes of Ian Rogers as an executive, now at the helm of Beats' forthcoming Daisy service, among other notables.
Back in the days when a song could take an hour to arrive over the web -- and when the web was still sometimes called the Information Superhighway with a straight face -- but before Apple's growth into one of the most valuable companies in the world, Winamp was the program of choice for millions to store and play their digital music files.
The software counted 60 million users at its peak in 2001 -- right as the first iPod was released by Steve Jobs and Apple. Two years later, a million of Apple's players had been sold and iTunes was on an unstoppable upwards trajectory following the launch of the iTunes Store. Apple's iTunes now has 575 million user accounts as of June 2013, adding 500,000 new users daily.
Even though it missed its chance to preempt virtually every digital music service, Winamp was still bringing in money as recently as last year. Revenue estimated to be around $6 million in 2012, according to a report from Ars Technica at the time which deftly gets to the bottom of the company's slow death.
"The shutdown of Winamp says a lot about the tech world’s vicious utilitarianism and its readiness to mock or eliminate applications and services that have fallen out of wide use," wrote Slate's Justin Peters (before going on to lament a contemporary of Winamp; Geocities' megacluster of proto-Tumblrs). Winamp, as much as Netscape Navigator and Windows 95, was and remains representative of a relatively brief era, when the web was a tumult of information, more possibility than practicality for its visitors.
Peters isn't the only one saddened by the news.
"I will never stop using Winamp. Nobody can stop me," wrote one TechCrunch commenter. (The site's story on the shutdown appeared to be generating roughly one embittered, teary-eyed comment per second.)
"Winamp came about the same time many people were finally getting the hang of file-sharing music, and the player helped revolutionize the way we consume media," wrote Ryan W. Neal for the International Business Times, who put together a timeline of the software.
"It's the end of Music 1.0," as venture capitalist Josh Felser, who recently tried to buy Winamp from AOL, told Ars Technica.