Microsoft Emerges as Possible Winamp Buyer

A holdover of the early MP3 days, Winamp faces closure next month. Microsoft is reportedly in talks with AOL to acquire it.

Eclipsed by iTunes and streaming apps like Spotify, Winamp and Shoutcast are being shut down by AOL next month.

The move came to light after AOL issued a brief statement on the Winamp website. It states, " and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013. Additionally, Winamp Media players will no longer be available for download."

AOL added, "Thanks for supporting the Winamp community for over 15 years."

Winamp surged to popularity following the advent of MP3 music and file-sharing sites like Napster. The free media player, developed by Nullsoft, supported plug-ins, skins and visualizations and enabled users to extend the software's capabilities and customize it to their liking. Winamp attracted a thriving community of developers and digital artists that pumped out add-ons in response to growing demand.

Shoutcast, also from Nullsoft, is an Internet radio software platform that is compatible with Winamp and several other media players. Currently, Shoutcast boasts more than 50,000 free Internet radio stations with hundreds of thousands of active listeners at any given time.

AOL snapped up Nullsoft and its technology in 1999 for an estimated $100 million. By 2004, the original Winamp team left, after reportedly struggling to reconcile AOL's corporate expectations with the founders' rebellious streak. Winamp creator Justin Frankel quit AOL in Jan. 2004.

Next month, AOL is pulling the plug. Winamp supporters flocked to a petition requesting AOL keep Winamp active or let it go open source. As of this writing, it has gathered more than 8,000 signatures out of the 10,000-signature limit.

The petition reads:

"Winamp is the best media player ever built. It can't be left to die. It must live on.

"If AOL allows it to go open source it WILL live on forever and be in the hands of people who love it and use it every day.

"AOL, Keep Winamp alive or let it go open source."

Their efforts may be in vain, however.

Redmond, Wash.-based software giant Microsoft is reportedly interested in the technology. TechCrunch's Ingrid Lunden reported that "AOL is [in] talks with Microsoft to sell Winamp, along with Shoutcast, a media streaming service also developed by Nullsoft."

Negotiations are ongoing. "From what we understand, the deal is not yet finalized, with AOL and Microsoft still working out the price," wrote Lunden. "It could also be very wishful thinking from those intent on trying to save both services," she added, hinting that any deal doesn't guarantee that Winamp and/or Shoutcast will emerge unscathed.

Microsoft operates its own Xbox Music streaming service. Lunden raised the possibility that the company's interest in Shoutcast may stem from Xbox Music's lack of an Internet radio component. The technology would enhance Microsoft's current "Pandora-style personal radio feature," she added.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...