RealTime IT News

AOL Targets Developers with Winamp Makeover

America Online's Nullsoft has completely rebuilt its Winamp MP3 player on the 'Wasabi' coding platform, targeting developers looking to personalize and customize the popular digital media program.

And there is word AOL Music is finalizing plans for a premium version of the Winamp3 upgrade that targets the developer community.

AOL's announcement of the Winamp3 rollout made no mention of the premium plans but internetnews.com understands Nullsoft plans to include extras like MP3Pro decoders, MP3 encoders, CD burning engines, DVD and MPEG-2 support into a Winamp3 version for developers.

"There will be a free and paid version of Winamp3 eventually. The free version won't be stripped down in any way but the paid version will include some extras that cost us licensing money that we cannot absorb," a company source explained under condition of anonymity.

AOL Music officials could not be reached to discuss the premium plans but Friday's announcement hyped the inclusion of the 'Wasabi' platform, which lets Winamp users tinker with components in the player. With 'Wasabi', any component of Winamp can be removed or replaced, allowing third party developers freedom to customize and add new features to the player.

AOL Music, which runs the Nullsoft subsidiary, said an advanced platform for developers would introduce a new component-based architecture that provides easy access to a range of interoperable plug-ins.

The advanced Winamp3 features an XML-based skinning and UI engine that allows for advanced designs including animations, alpha transparency, color themes and smooth scaling of components.

For Winamp fans, the ability to tweak and tinker with the player is a big hit and, by building the new version on 'Wasabi', the plan is to do away with the old plug-in system.

Winamp, which competes with Microsoft's Windows Media Player (WMP) and RealNetworks' RealPlayer software, hyped the upgrade as a "freeform skinable player" that supports designs that completely change the look, shape and functionality of the player.

It allows player skins to be scaled from 25 percent up to full screen and promotional skins that can help with AOL's marketing efforts. Media playback capabilities add support for video playback, seamless song transitions via cross-fading and gapless playback for CDs and other digital media.

Winamp3 also introduces a new media library that lets users organize, browse and search music and video files through a new interface. Files played on the Winamp3 are stored in a media library database allowing the entire media collection to be sorted by year, genre, artist, year, and type.

The new build includes a new playlist editor that adds support for playlist management including multiple playlists and multiple playlist editors as well as additional ways of sorting files. Additionally, a new utility called "Thinger" has been added to provide access to key features and can be personalized when new functionality is added (via a plug-in).

The Winamp makeover comes just weeks after AOL Music announced it would scrap the Spinner.com brand and roll the Webcasting property into its Netscape portal.

Beginning August 12, AOL said Spinner would relaunch with a new media player as Radio@Netscape Plus, in keeping with plans to turn the Netscape.com site into a full-fledged media portal. The new Radio@Netscape Plus player would add local radio stations with news and sports Webcasts to the list of channels now available on Spinner.

AOL has integrated the Spinner.com Web site will rolled into Netcape's Music Center, completing a rebranding that is being viewed as a major shift in strategy for AOL, which is now merging all its Internet Webcasting operations under the Netscape or AOL brand. The company also runs the Radio@AOL streaming operations.

AOL Music properties include Radio@AOL, Radio@Netscape, Winamp SHOUTcast.