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New Winamp update adds features, fixes, and (sigh) support for “music NFTs”

Winamp/Andrew Cunningham

If you’d asked me in January to make some predictions about what 2022 would bring, I don’t think “multiple significant updates to the Winamp player” would have been on the list. But the release candidate for version 5.9.1 of the software builds on the groundwork laid by August’s 5.9 update to fix some bugs and add new features to the reanimated music player. Most of these are straightforward updates or improvements to existing features, but because it’s 2022, one of the only new features is support for music NFTs.

My rudimentary understanding (gleaned mostly from sites like NFT Now that are focused almost exclusively on the purported benefits rather than the downsides) is that music NFTs operate like NFT images, except that the NFT provides a link to a digital music file instead of a link to a JPG. The benefits, according to advocates, are that artists can earn more money by creating scarcity (releasing unique or limited-run tracks, for example) and by getting a cut of secondhand sales of the NFT that happen between fans.

But being an updated version of a Windows 98-era music player, the support for NFT music in Winamp is a bit roundabout. People with NFT music libraries will need to export them from whatever platform they use and then import them into Winamp as an .m3u playlist. Winamp provided a video of this process, which we’ve included below.

“Winamp’s latest version lets music fans link their Metamask wallet via Brave, Chrome, or Firefox to Winamp. It then connects their favorite music NFTs to their tried-and-true player,” the company said in a press release provided to Ars. “Winamp supports audio and video files distributed under both the ERC-721 and ERC-1155 standards, and is launching this new feature for Ethereum and Polygon/Matic protocols.”

Winamp’s still mostly out-of-date innards make downloading and playing NFT music a clunky, roundabout affair. Video credit: Winamp

This roundabout process is a place where Winamp’s current ambitions (creator platform, NFT marketplace) collide with its actual shipping product (a music player whose cultural relevance peaked during the George W. Bush administration). To directly display websites needed to download these NFT playlists, according to the release notes, would require an updated rendering engine for Winamp’s in-app browser, which is currently based on Internet Explorer 10.

There’s still plenty here for legacy Winamp fans to like, and it’s nice to see that all the modernization work done in the 5.9 update is paying off in the form of faster updates. Among many other fixes, the new release includes a “memory footprint reduction,” a bandwidth increase for streamed music, an update to OpenSSL 3.0.5, and a few other updates for the underlying codecs and other software that Winamp uses to do its thing. As for the NFT support, Winamp developer Eddy Richman (who goes by the handle “DJ Egg” on the Winamp forums) wrote that people who don’t want it can remove it, either during the install process or after Winamp is installed.

Perhaps anticipating that Winamp’s remaining hardcore fans would not have a lot of fondness for NFTs, Richman also attempted to keep comments in the Winamp 5.9.1 release notes thread on-topic.

“Please do not post any rants about NFTs in this thread,” he wrote.

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