Software: Nostalgia for ’90s apps

The demise of Winamp, which AOL will drop after Dec. 20, “says a lot about the tech world.”

It’s “the end of an era,” said Brad Chacos in AOL said last week that it will no longer update or support the iconic media player Winamp after Dec. 20. “The announcement itself was a whimper,” with just a small banner notification on the Winamp website noting the 16-year-old service’s demise. Perhaps that’s fitting. The media player was “all the rage” for PC users in the late ’90s and the subsequent Napster era, but it’s “barely made a peep since being acquired by AOL” more than 10 years ago. Win-amp still gets points for its personalization features, “but it was just too niche in today’s cross-platform, pay-as-you-go world” of streaming music services such as iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and Google Play.

Winamp’s demise “says a lot about the tech world” today, said Justin Peters in I know most people would be surprised to learn that software “you last fired up circa 2002 still exists in any form.” But apps like Winamp put power in the user’s hands, and unlike many of the modern services that have come since, they don’t “make me feel like they’re always trying to get my credit card number.” That’s why I, for one, still use Winamp, and have cause to resent that AOL has “given it the ax so casually.” Who cares if the company won’t continue supporting the software? They could have at least kept the website up for die-hard fans. But such is the “vicious utilitarianism” of today’s tech world. That same mind-set led Yahoo to dump the once popular Web host Geocities in 2009. Sure, “it was garish and largely abandoned. But it was still a vital part of online history, a remnant of the clumsy, idiosyncratic Internet that predated today’s streamlined, circumscribed Web.”

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