I probably haven’t used Winamp in a decade, but learning that it’s finally going away for good brought it back to the top of my mind this week.
Winamp wasn’t just my primary digital-music-playing-thing1 — like many people, it was the first thing I ever used to play MP3s.
Yes Junior, back then Windows Media Player was for CDs and WAV files, and iTunes didn’t exist yet.2
What made Winamp so awesome? I could devote a whole post3 to the genius of Winamp skins, and things I’ve been reading (1, 2, 3) overwhelmingly reference the classic “whip the llama’s ass” sound clip — which, in addition to being a neat little branding thing, was permanently imprinted on everyone’s memory by being the first thing that would play after installation.
Those were cool, but my favorite Winamp memory is something a little less… superficial, perhaps? It’s a short piece of writing that long ago was featured on the “About” page of winamp.com:
What is Winamp? A player you say? No, no baby. Winamp is much more than that.
Winamp is a lifestyle. It is freestyle. Give me a word. Versatility? Yeah. Visionary? Of course. Community? Now you’re talking.
Winamp lives because it’s users have a life.
Winamp is in the coffee house. On the laptop. Of the guy. Who is writing the screenplay. That you will be watching next year.
Winamp is on the screen. In the club. Where the DJ plays the tracks. That get you through the night.
Winamp is with you. When you take your playlist. Push it to the ether. And share the music that you love. With all of humanity.
Winamp lets you put together the soundtrack. That runs in the background of your mind. And allows you to define your life.
Winamp is your skin. Allowing you to look and feel the way you want.
Winamp is what it is and nothing more. But you are the one who makes it. Winamp is there for you. It is yours. What happens next? You tell me. Download Winamp.
–jonathan “feel the love” ward
Reading it back then left me a bit misty, filled with this strangely inspired feeling. The piece comes to mind every once in a while, at which point I seek out a copy to re-read it. Look, I can’t point to anything in particular that I wrote or created thanks to this inspiration. But in some way, it made me think differently not just about the power of music, but the transformative power of what would otherwise seem like trivial software. Reading this made me feel like Winamp did more than just “play music.”
But in reality, that’s all it did. Or was there more?
Give me a word. Hyperbole? Maybe. Awesome? Undeniable.
- Until iTunes for Windows showed me the value in having a library of files. Yeah, I know Winamp has a library feature, but I never used it. ↩
- Oh, and by the way, MP3s were these things people used to listen to before there was YouTube. ↩
- And, shit, I may — Winamp was doing skeumorphics before Apple did skeumorphics before Apple stopped doing skeumorphics. ↩