Every now and then individuals of a certain generation (my Generation) tend to go into a catatonic state when we remember Winamp skins. There’s just something about them that instantly takes you back to the late 90s / early 00s when the interfaces were really customizable and your music collection was an endless and exciting battle against mangled filenames like LINKIN_PORK-IN% THE% END (HQ)) .mp3.
If any of this causes a nostalgic reaction, chances are you’re going to enjoy the Winamp Skin Museum. It’s an endlessly scrolling collection of 65,000 Winamp skins, searchable and fully interactive. There̵
The skins were previously collected on the Internet archive but compiled in this new accessible format by Facebook engineer Jordan Eldredge. On Twitter, Eldredge notes that he still takes collections for the project when you have skins to donate, and he describes the collection as an “iconic moment in the art history of the internet.”
He’s not wrong. The taste on display at the Winamp Skin Museum is, in a word, breathtaking. It has all of the artistic value of a national art gallery but focuses on the late 90s / early 00s aesthetic with enough raw energy to bring Nu Metal back.
On the display, you’ll see anime skins, gaming skins, communist skins, sci-fi skins, skins for specific artists, and a cornucopia of indescribable vibes in between. The only disappointment is that the museum’s format is inadequate to support the alien skins that have changed the size and shape of the various elements of Winamp. But maybe that would have been too much for today’s sleek, modern user interfaces.
But that’s the weird thing about Winamp skins: they capture not only a visual aesthetic, but also a way of interacting with the technology. Personally, they remind me of a time when I had more control over my computer. I could of course customize Winamp skins, but also my entire desktop, right down to my extremely carefully compiled music collection.
It was also something of sorting through files and digging up album art, which led to a kind of confrontation with music that feels very different to me than today’s streaming model. Spotify appears to be passive compared to Winamp. You will get your Discover playlist and you will like it. (And I do.) You could argue that we traded this messy adjustment for the sake of simplicity. But was it worth it? Probably. Maybe there is just one time in my life missing when I have the time and energy to play around with things like this. Computers are probably just as customizable if you want to make the effort.
But do you see what I mean now? Winamp Skins, dude. They really bring you back.