The Winamp Skin Museum is a trip through time and bad design choices
Taking a trip through a vast library of poorly designed Winamp nostalgia sends the mind right back to a precious time for digital music.
Back in the early 2000s, Winamp was one of the few popular alternatives to Windows Media Player, and a lot of word of mouth around it at the time emphasised how it was the superior platform for people who liked full control of their music, with an array of equalizers and presets to fiddle with.
For a younger me, this sounded amazing. Full control over my music. Although, I feel like it’s important to mention that all my music was MIDI files from vgmusic.org and Sonic the Hedgehog soundtracks, and the odd song a friend would download for me off of Limewire. This was because I was very scared of having songs with swears in them, lest I get in trouble.
So, all those equalizers and presets probably were not really intended for me.
But what was intended for my little video game loving heart was Winamps absolutely massive library of customisation options. Custom-made skins from the community, ranging from simple colour schemes through to video games and anime. If you enjoyed something, there was probably a skin for that.
Sadly, over time, Winamp lost popularity (despite a recent comeback in 2018) and fell into obscurity. But thankfully, one man, Jordan Eldredge, couldn’t let all the hard work of those skin creators fade into the internet ether, never to be seen again.
So he created the Winamp Skin Museum, which is in his own words, “...an attempt to build a fast, searchable, and shareable interface for the collection of Winamp Skins amassed on the Internet Archive.”
This is a repository of over 65,000 skins, easily browseable through an infinite scroll, a search function, or just slapping the old random button to get an instant hit of nostalgia (or anime titties, it’s a mixed bag).
Clicking on a skin pops up a fully interactive preview, complete with a tracklist of 12 songs and the classic ‘whips the llama’s ass’ demo.mp3. What’s more, each of these skins can be downloaded and used, either on your own computer based copy of Winamp, or through the entirely online Webamp.
Eldredge also shares a Twitter thread of fun tips and things you can do with his museum, ranging from adding your own music files, through to being able to save your equalizer settings.
Looking through the skins is like a trip back in time in itself. I can’t remember exactly which skin I had at any given point, considering I was so prone to change, but if you liked it and it existed in the early 2000s, there was probably a skin for it.
One of the common threads between all the skins, however, is… They’re mostly horrifically designed. Glaring colour schemes, removing all the text so you weren’t sure which button you were pressing, but that was all part of the charm of the early internet.
We didn’t know about sleek design or making a good user interface. The idea of ‘user friendly design’ was a few years off yet, with aesthetics taking priority. There were just a bunch of teens making skins using stolen art on DeviantArt, and that’s how we liked it.