How Winamp’s Demise Hurts Podcasters

Update: There is a rumor that Microsoft may be bidding to acquire Nullsoft, Winamp and Shoutcast. 

For most of us early podcasters, we either knew about or applied Winamp for our shows. The Shoutcast service allowed us to put together a playlist and send it out via our Internet connections. However, AOL has decided to shutter Nullsoft and the once popular Winamp service. So what do podcasters do now?



What (was) Winamp?

Winamp started in 1997 as an alternative player to the horrible media players that Windows and Mac put out. It would play audio files the others wouldn’t. You could organize your music and even skin the player to look cool.


Winamp also contained SHOUTcast – a way to stream your audio or video to other people. Online radio stations popped up quickly with Shoutcast. I remember seeing a lot of “Family Guy” channels where I could watch episodes of the FOX cartoon. Of course with that, also brought illegal peer-to-peer movies (which I also watched a few of those).

AOL bought Nullsoft and Winamp in 1999. Since then, they were operating as the alternate media player for your Windows XP, Mac OSX and Linux OSes.



How Winamp Helped Podcasting

In 2004, podcasters looked to multiple avenues to push their shows. With bandwidth and storage being rather expensive in 2005, some podcasters tried the online stream option. They would buy a second internet connection (like a DSL service) and set up a SHOUTcast server.

Listeners (or viewers) would consume the content there. The only limitation was how many could connect to your server. If your podcast was 32 kbps, only 4 people could listen at a time (DSL bandwidth upload speeds = 128 kbps). A Cable Internet connection was about 1.5 Mbps, so a 32 kbps podcast could be listened to by a lot more people at once.

Since SHOUTcast streamed, the audio would play even if no one was connected to the service.

The Changing Troposphere of Media

Streaming services uStream, Livestream and Justin.TV started taking over video. Services like Spotify, Pandora and Apple’s iRadio manage online music consumption. Services like Stitcher push your shows via mobile devices. YouTube and Hangouts work with getting other content out there for podcasters.

At one place of work, we setup a SHOUTcast to work so people could listen to music at their desks. Nowadays, iTunes music sharing can do the same thing.

So the once useful Winamp found itself being pushed aside for newer products. Once the “Llama” service that kicked ass was getting kicked in the ass…

How You Can Still Use Winamp

Although the service is shuttering, you can still use Winamp on your machines. Eventually it might not install on newer operating systems, but for now you can set up a computer with Winamp and SHOUTcast services to push your audio files.

You have until December 20 to download the Winamp software. After that, the site will be shut down.

Hopefully, we’ll get Winamp in Open Source so we can continue to whip the llama’s ass. Until then, you better get downloading…



Are There Shoutcast Alternatives?

Oh heck yes. You can set up a machine without Shoutcast to stream. The software just made the process a little easier. Icecast is still in Beta but a stable software for streaming. Ampache is a web-based streaming software. You can also use Dropbox to stream audio and video (as long as you don’t abuse the option).

You can also pay some $$ to get software that allows you to stream audio and video. There are multiple companies that will do this. You will need to pull out your pocketbook, though.

Nullsoft and Winamp did us good. Lets hope the service does go open source or is bought by someone else. There is a lot of good uses for this software – especially in an internal company situation.

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