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Company typePrivate
IndustryComputer software
HeadquartersSedona, Arizona
Key people
Justin Frankel
Tom Pepper
ProductsWinamp, NSIS, and others
OwnerRadionomy Group

Nullsoft, Inc. was an American software house founded in Sedona, Arizona, in 1997 by programmer Justin Frankel. Its products included the Winamp media player and the SHOUTcast MP3 streaming media server.


In 1997, Justin Frankel, a programmer from Sedona, Arizona, founded Nullsoft, Inc in his home town. The company's name is a parody of Microsoft.[1] Mike the Llama is the company's mascot.[a] The company launched the media player Winamp in 1997, developed by Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev. It was the second real-time MP3 player for Windows, following WinPlay3.[2]

Nullsoft, along with, were sold to America Online (AOL) on June 1, 1999, for around $400 million and thereafter existed as a subsidiary, subsequently becoming a division of AOL Music. The headquarters were moved to San Francisco, California.[3][4]

According to Bonnie Burton, then editor of the website, 2001 was a period of heightened tension between the Nullsoft staff and upper management, because of Frankel's uncompromising views about file-sharing. He had developed Gnutella in 2000 and released it using company infrastructure.[5][6] Ars Technica also noted that AOL failed to effectively monetize or find a larger audience for Winamp.[7] Nullsoft's San Francisco offices were closed in December 2003, with a near-concurrent departure of Frankel and the original Winamp development team.[1][3] In 2013, some AOL Music sites were shut down and others sold to Townsquare Media.[8][9][10]

In November 2013, an unofficial report surfaced that Microsoft was in talks with AOL to acquire Nullsoft.[11] On January 14, 2014, it was officially announced that Belgian online radio aggregator Radionomy had bought Winamp and Shoutcast, formerly owned by Nullsoft. No financial details were publicly announced.[12][13]



Winamp is a media player released by Nullsoft in April 1997. By 1999, it was downloaded by 15 million people.[1] The company released several new versions of the Winamp player and grew its monthly unique subscriber base to 60 million users by late 2004.[3] Winamp was discontinued by Nullsoft around 2013.[14] New versions of Winamp, which started releasing in 2023, are by a different developer named Llama Group.[15]


SHOUTcast (currently Shoutcast) is an MP3 streaming media server.

Nullsoft Scriptable Install System[edit]

In later years, their open source installer system, the Nullsoft Scriptable Install System (NSIS) became an alternative to commercial products like InstallShield.[16]


Nullsoft's developments after acquisition included the Nullsoft Streaming Video (NSV) format, which was intended to stream media that used any audio or video codec. In 2002, the press reported a technology called Ultravox being developed by Nullsoft.[17] The company also created the peer-to-peer networks Gnutella and WASTE.[1] Although AOL tried to limit the distribution of Gnutella and WASTE, the Ultravox technology was reportedly used for some AOL radio services in 2003.[18] A service called Nullsoft Television was announced in 2003 using NSV.[19]


  1. ^ this is frequently referred to in promotional material (especially for Winamp) citing llamas. Frankel introduced the llama in Winamp's startup sound clip, inspired by the lyrics of Wesley Willis: "Winamp, it really whips the llama's ass!"[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Kushner, David (January 13, 2004). "The World's Most Dangerous Geek". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on March 21, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  2. ^ "Tales in Tech History: Winamp". August 25, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Mook, Nate (November 10, 2004). "Death Knell Sounds for Nullsoft, Winamp". Betanews. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  4. ^ Krigel, Beth (June 1, 1999). "AOL buys Spinner, Nullsoft for $400 million". CNET. Archived from the original on December 8, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  5. ^ Burton, Bonnie (November 22, 2013). "Waving goodbye to Winamp, paying respects to Nullsoft". CNET. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  6. ^ Harmon, Amy (March 20, 2000). "Technology; Free Music Software May Have Rattled AOL". The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  7. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (July 3, 2017). "Winamp's woes: How the greatest MP3 player undid itself". Ars Technica. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  8. ^ Constine, Josh (June 2, 2013). "Townsquare Media Acquires Some Doomed AOL Music Sites And Comics Alliance". Techcrunch. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  9. ^ Cooper, Charles (April 26, 2013). "AOL shuts down music-related services". CNET News. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  10. ^ Solsman, Joan E. (June 3, 2013). "Radio chain picks up pared-down AOL music sites". CNET News. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  11. ^ "AOL reportedly wants to sell Winamp to Microsoft". The Verge. November 21, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  12. ^ Lunden, Ingrid (January 1, 2014). "AOL Sells Winamp And Shoutcast Music Services To Online Radio Aggregator Radionomy". TechCrunch. AOL.
  13. ^ "Winamp lives on after acquisition by Radionomy". The Verge. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  14. ^ Burton, Bonnie (November 23, 2013). "Waving goodbye to Winamp, paying respects to Nullsoft". CNET. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  15. ^ Newman, Jared (April 12, 2023). "Winamp is back, but not like you remember". FastCompany. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  16. ^ Cimpanu, Catalin (March 16, 2017). "Trend: Ransomware Hidden in NSIS Installers Harder to Detect". Bleeping Computer. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  17. ^ Hu, Jim (June 26, 2002). "AOL aims to supercharge streaming". CNET News. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  18. ^ "AOL pulls Nullsoft file-sharing software". Flexbeta. May 30, 2003. Archived from the original on September 8, 2004. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  19. ^ "Nullsoft TV Worldwide Public Access". Archived from the original on February 19, 2003. Retrieved June 7, 2013.

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