The sudden, quiet killing of the legendary Winamp media player sent a shiver across the Web last week. Just like that, a software giant of yore was gone. But once the initial shock wore off, another thought settled in: “Wait, Winamp was still around?”
And that got me thinking: Whatever happened to all those classic websites and programs that, like Winamp, were found on virtually every PC around the turn of the century? Microsoft snuffed out Clippy (and rightfully so), but what was the fate of RealPlayer, and CompuServe, and—man, oh man—BonziBuddy? Some have joined Winamp in the great Recycle Bin in the sky. Some are still trundling along. And everywhere you turn, you’ll find the twin shadows of AOL and Yahoo. Let’s dig in.
RealPlayerImage: Wikimedia Commons
Before we start singing dirges for the dead, let’s highlight a scrappy classic that’s still hanging on. The iconic (and annoying) RealPlayer slung songs on computers across the United States in the late 1990s, mostly because it—along with Winamp—was one of the few free MP3 spinners available to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft’s native Windows Media Player.
RealNetworks’ music maestro is still alive and kicking, complete with mobile apps, but in September the company shifted away from straight tune-twiddling. The revamped RealPlayer Cloud mixes media playing with cloud storage, letting you shift your songs and videos wirelessly from device to device. See? Old dogs can learn new tricks. (You can still find the stand-alone RealPlayer software banging around, too.)