When the internet has been around long enough that old music apps are old enough to be retro or nostalgic, you know that the internet has come a long way. And so it is with Winamp, a leftover media player from the late 90's/ early 2000's that used to compete with RealPlayer / QuickTime / Windows Media Player to be an all-in-one app that played music and videos files, in a time when it was all so new to users.
The idea was, if you could build an all-in-one player, then users wouldn't have to sort through techno jargon like MP3 and WAV files. They would be able to download a file, click play, and it would "just work."
Winamp announced late last week that it will be shutting down on Dec. 20. There was no emo diatribe, no love lost, no rambling blog post about a mission statement gone wrong, just the cold and calculated offering of:
"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."
This of course means that the player itself should still work, but any associated web services will not be maintained by AOL and Winamp will be a forgotten product stranded on the the side of the information superhighway, like a wrecked car in a ditch.
It didn't have to be this way, though -- bad oversight from parent company AOL may have squandered the hope of gaining more than the millions of users it maintained worldwide, and could have ranked among the Spotify's and iTunes' of the world.
“There's no reason that Winamp couldn’t be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition,” said Rob Lord, the Winamp general manager when speaking to Ars.
Which is of course a sad tale of corporate mismanagement. So many apps, music websites and digital properties sell their soul to a corporate overlord in the name of growing their product, or moving up the digital food chain. What often plays out is the opposite though -- they become obscured in the haze of being just one item on a list of products and services that the coporate owner forgets about with no larger strategy in mind.