Winamp Is Back to Whip the Llama After 4 Years of Development

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Today, streaming music is everywhere, but in the before times, it was all about locally stored MP3s — all legally ripped from CDs, of course. Winamp was one of the most popular ways to listen to those files, but it fell into disrepair as listening shifted to online services. A project to refresh the app began a few years back, and you can now get a look at the final version. The first release candidate is available for download, and it still whips the llama — yes, Winamp 5.9 plays that iconic intro when you first launch it. 

The younger folks out there might be a little confused by all this fuss over a desktop music app, but Winamp was almost a required download in the early 2000s. It was among the best ways for non-iTunes people to listen to music on a computer, and it was free. It played music CDs and MP3 files, and it even facilitated ripping those CDs to MP3 format — which is how we all got MP3s (certainly no one was pirating them!). There were a ton of skins and visualizations built into the app, too. Development stalled in 2013 as people moved away from locally stored music, but the team has spent the last four years working on v5.9 RC1. 

Setting up the new Winamp might seem positively archaic by 2022 standards. You’ll have to point it to your music library and then wait while it scans files and downloads metadata. It supports all the major formats like MP3, FLAC, and m4a. Anyone who has used Winamp before will feel right at home — there’s even a classic skin that’ll transport you back to 2003. The UI consists of several panels, each with configurable content. Winamp is particularly good at creating and managing playlists. 

The Winamp 5.9 release candidate with the default Bento theme.

The new version might have been out sooner if not for the pandemic, which slowed progress considerably. The devs also struggled to update the app’s codebase from Visual Studio 2009 to the 2019 version. As a result, Winamp no longer supports Windows XP or Vista. You’ll need to be on Windows 7 or later, but hopefully, you’re running something that still gets security updates. The team says that it has the hard parts done, and going forward they can focus on features. Future additions include support for more formats like opus, ogm, H.265, HLS, and VP9. If you want to check out the new Winamp, the installer is available in the official forums.

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