The fates of the veteran media player app Winamp and its related Shoutcast streaming platform remain in limbo after AOL’s announcement last week that it would shut down Nullsoft and end support of these products. Although there have been reports that Microsoft is in talks to buy both Winamp and Shoutcast, neither company has commented publicly.
So a Melbourne, Australia based web developer and the owner of a web hosting company, Peter Zawacki, has started a Change.org petition urging AOL to either keep Winamp alive or release its code as open source.
Zawacki and a group of like-minded developers have created a website to simply explain their cause, writing,
“The history of digital music started with Winamp.
Winamp is still one of the best music players out there.
It’s SIMPLE TO USE.
And lots of people still use it.”
The petition makes no mention of Nullsoft’s Shoutcast audio streaming technology. As I wrote last week, Shoutcast played an important role in the growth of internet radio, and still provides both the platform for thousands of stations. While there are open source alternatives, the loss of Shoutcast and the Shoutcast Radio directory would still imperil thousands of online stations, a significant number of them independent.
I contacted the folks behind Save Winamp by email to ask about Shoutcast and they responded very quickly. “It would be great to have the Shoutcast technology open-sourced with Winamp,” they said. However, the directory and license key services that AOL provides are amongst the aspects that would complicate things. For instance, with version 2 of the Shoutcast server, a user has to buy a license in order to stream MP3, since it is a format that is protected by patents.
The Save Winamp team also said that “We did not know if there would be lots of traction behind the idea. The success and the speed with which this petition is spreading surprised us in a good way.”
So first, they are looking to see if AOL is even willing to consider the idea of continuing support or open-sourcing Winamp. They said that they don’t know what is actually contained in the Winamp code, and therefore need to “understand if it is possible to make Winamp open source.”
There’s the possibility that there are other patented or licensed technologies within Winamp that AOL does not have the right to release as open source.
But, “If AOL are willing to open source Winamp or portions of it, then we would do our best to help with the transition, find developers willing and able to work on this project,” they said.
While we wait for AOL to indicate if it’s willing to consider stay of execution for Winamp and Shoutcast, watch this cool–though geeky as hell–video on the history of Winamp.
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