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Mozilla-based iTunes rival "Songbird" takes flight

post #1 of 70
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A multi-year effort to deliver an open-source and customizable iTunes rival came to fruition this week with the release of Songbird 1.0, but whether it will sway some users from the Apple jukebox software remains to be seen.

The cross-platform player is available as a free download for Intel-based Macs, Windows and Linux. It's based on the same Gecko rendering engine that drives Mozilla's Firefox browser but comes wrapped in an extensible user interface that could easily be mistaken for iTunes.

Unlike the Apple media software, whose features are governed by the iPod maker and its licensing agreements, Songbird prides itself on extensibility through add-ons that allow you to customize the media player experience through collapsable panels and gain new functionality.

In addition to support for QuickTime playback and a variety of iPods, the inaugural release includes four other add-ons by default. Among them are SHOUTcast radio streaming, Last.fm Scrobbling, and Songkick integration for discovering and acquiring concert tickets related to artists in your library.

Another highly touted add-on is mashTape, which displays Flickr photos, YouTube videos, artist biographies, news items and other web content related to the artist currently playing. Dozens of other add-ons can be downloaded from Songbird's website.

For file formats, Songbird currently supports MP3, FLAC, and Vorbis on all platforms; WMA on Windows; and AAC on Windows and Mac. It's quick to import full iTunes libraries -- including DRM-wrapped tracks -- and maintains their associated metadata. For playback, the software uses the high-performance and open-source GStreamer multimedia framework.

Songbird's user interface was designed to be familiar to Apple iTunes users.

Still, there are a number of limitations and potential roadblocks that may combine to slow adoption of the new player, which also features a built-in web browser.

For example, Songbird 1.0 lacks CD ripping capabilities, and its list of compatible devices omits the most recent generation of iPods and all of Apple's Mac OS-based handhelds, including the iPhone and iPod touch. Zune is also unsupported, though support for all these devices, CD ripping, broader video support, and others are all on the software's roadmap.

A mashTape add-on displays related web content as songs play.

Another big question mark is what, if any, measures Apple will take to prevent Songbird compatibility with its software and media players going forward. The company has recently moved to squash efforts from open-source competitors aiming to develop products compatible with its iPod+iTunes ecosystem.
post #2 of 70
Awesome! I've been waiting for a nice player for Linux. That is my one bitch about iTunes.

I'm downloading now!

 

 

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post #3 of 70
i've been using it since yesterday on my Vista machine. Its quite nice indeed. Lots of plug-ins which really make it an extensible product. I've had it stutter a couple of times on tracks though, so I'm not sure what's up with that.

It also appears to play all of my iTunes purchased content...
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post #4 of 70
It also appears to be a carbon-copy of iTunes. Zero effort to improve or at least be different from iTunes.
post #5 of 70
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Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post

It also appears to be a carbon-copy of iTunes. Zero effort to improve or at least be different from iTunes.

It's 1.0... give it time. When iTunes first started it looked a lot like Sound Jam.

Look at all web browsers... they all look pretty similar from an interface that Netscape started 15 years ago.

 

 

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post #6 of 70
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Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post

It also appears to be a carbon-copy of iTunes. Zero effort to improve or at least be different from iTunes.

Absolutely! Kudos to Monzilla for making an exact copy of iTunes, that must of really taken some major R&D! SongBird?? Worst name ever.
post #7 of 70
Let the caged bird sing!!!!!!

 

 

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post #8 of 70
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Originally Posted by emig647 View Post

It's 1.0... give it time. When iTunes first started it looked a lot like Sound Jam.

Do you mean the Sound Jam that Apple bought to turn into iTunes? Is it any surprise that a later revision of a program is reminiscent of a previous version? It's clearly a legitimate reuse of the UI if they bought the rights to the program.


Quote:
Originally Posted by webhead View Post

Absolutely! Kudos to Monzilla for making an exact copy of iTunes, that must of really taken some major R&D!

Making an app, especially a cross platform app, isn't easy, you can't just push a button and hope it works. I don't know what they were thinking when they put most of the controls and the simulated playback display at the bottom of the window.

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SongBird?? Worst name ever.

I think it is more creative than putting the same letter in front of half of your product names.
post #9 of 70
Don't any of these folks own a compiler that can compile ppc?
post #10 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post

It also appears to be a carbon-copy of iTunes. Zero effort to improve or at least be different from iTunes.

well sort of. it's more itunes merged with safari. although I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by emig647 View Post

It's 1.0... give it time. When iTunes first started it looked a lot like Sound Jam.

.

probably because Apple bought SoundJam and redeveloped it into iTunes.
post #11 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post

It also appears to be a carbon-copy of iTunes. Zero effort to improve or at least be different from iTunes.

That depends on your definition of improve. If it's faster, uses less resources, allows me to connect any PMP and still offers the same functionality iTunes without requiring completely relearning the iTunes features I'm used to then I'd call it an improvement.
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post #12 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post

It also appears to be a carbon-copy of iTunes. Zero effort to improve or at least be different from iTunes.

That's not true - it's got the play button at the bottom instead of the top. That's real innovation.
post #13 of 70
Still could have innovated it a bit more on the front end. Instead of just buying it and slapping their name on it. See previous comment about web browsers. When something works, most go with that. Look at video players, look at photoshop vs Gimp, look at word processors, look at spreadsheet apps.

OMFG apple could have innovated Numbers more!!!! LOL... it works and that's what people are familiar with. If Songbird came out with a completely different interface that was controversal what are the odds of people moving from iTunes to it? I'd say lower.

 

 

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post #14 of 70
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Originally Posted by elroth View Post

That's not true - it's got the play button at the bottom instead of the top. That's real innovation.

Have you guys even used it yet? Or are you just going off of the screenshots?

 

 

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post #15 of 70
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Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

That depends on your definition of improve. If it's faster, uses less resources, allows me to connect any PMP and still offers the same functionality iTunes without requiring completely relearning the iTunes features I'm used to then I'd call it an improvement.

It doesn't do any of those things at this point, except copy the interface.
post #16 of 70
When Mozilla adds CD ripping, I'll have to give this a try. Who doesn't love Mozilla? And, hopefully, Songbird won't be as "sluggish" as iTunes is on the PC (which is the only thing about iTunes that I don't like).
post #17 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by elroth View Post

It doesn't do any of those things at this point, except copy the interface.

Incorrect. The basic download is quite similar but when you add in these, this is where it all gets better:

http://addons.songbirdnest.com/
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post #18 of 70
You know. I think you guys need to use this before you start knocking it. In 5 minutes of using it I've already noticed a lot of front end differences. Artist Info, News, Photos, and Videos is awesome. I was playing descendents and it came arcross a TON of cool images. I gotta say the photo idea is really cool.

Videos connects to places like youtube so you can play videos on it. The toolbar has a rating system in it so you don't have to find the song in the playlists / browser to rate the song.

It has a forward and back browser keeping track of your browsing history. I'm really impressed. This is easily the 2nd best player at this point and this is the first release.

Thunder-bird.... song-bird. Meh.

 

 

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post #19 of 70
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Originally Posted by elroth View Post

That's not true - it's got the play button at the bottom instead of the top. That's real innovation.

You can move it to the top or bottom.

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When Mozilla adds CD ripping, I'll have to give this a try. Who doesn't love Mozilla? And, hopefully, Songbird won't be as "sluggish" as iTunes is on the PC (which is the only thing about iTunes that I don't like).

I bet it won't be long till you can import via LAME.

I love how I can browse the web in it as well.

Ok i'm done kissing mozilla's ass for the week. Now back to buggy firefox.

 

 

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post #20 of 70
What is wrong with having a product that does a few things really well? Why do they have to try and do everything and add more and more barely related features?

Seems to me it's like an iTunes on steroids. And maybe I'm not hearing them, but where are all the complaints about iTunes?

Not sure this birdy will fly, perhaps it fits better with Windows users.
post #21 of 70
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Originally Posted by Jon T View Post

What is wrong with having a product that does a few things really well? Why do they have to try and do everything and add more and more barely related features?

Seems to me it's like an iTunes on steroids. And maybe I'm not hearing them, but where are all the complaints about iTunes?

Not sure this birdy will fly, perhaps it fits better with Windows users.

Firefox got popular for that very reason. IE was a buggy incompatible insecure mess. Songbird will be just like firefox for windows. Windows Media Player is a joke. Songbird is already a welcome replacement for it. And on top of that it works on linux, so it's going to explode into the linux world. Last I checked Linux + Windows marketshare > apple marketshare. I think it will fly just fine.

 

 

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post #22 of 70
It's free, it's an alternative--why complain?

I have no interest in it--iTunes works great for me--but I'm not sorry to have another option too.

They should move the play controls and now-playing info box to the the top bar, though--those are basics that the eye should come across first.
post #23 of 70
At first glance it LOOKS similar to iTunes... they probably want people to feel at home... but this is a completely different product. Just read the frikken feature list before stating it's a copy. Lazy, lazy people!!!
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post #24 of 70
Yea, I wonder if some of you bothered to read the entire article? The roadmap for Songbird will be alot like Firefox... that is, app/add-on based. You can customize Firefox to no end, so the thought of being able to do that with a viable media player is the real innovation here. So what if it looks like iTunes? If Firefox is any indicator, you'll probably be able to download user-created skins to customize the look however you want, sometime the near future. Regardless, this is by far and away iTunes' most worthy competitor yet.
post #25 of 70
Aside from the fact it doesn't work with the newest and most popular music players, how does this play out on the desktop? There are only so many ways to show a list of songs... Albums, artists... blah blah blah...

Back in my PC days, I never really liked WMP, but it played all my music and, if I let it, organized it fairly well. Now, I have a Mac, and was leery about the performance of iTunes as it was quite slow on the PC. Of course, since it is built for Mac it runs like a dream.

I wish it was a bit smarter with managing multiple iPods... but other than that, it... PLAYS MUSIC!

I have a web browser, and many more to pick from... I don't need a web browser that pretends to be a media player...
post #26 of 70
Seriously, Why an open source option for something that is free. Why not an open source option for something that we need. Say, a financial program like quicken or quickbooks, an area of little quality competition and could use a unbiased platform. I'm just thinking that in tough times that we are going through we want smart people working on music player.
post #27 of 70
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Originally Posted by jpellino View Post

Don't any of these folks own a compiler that can compile ppc?

I have an earlier version on my iMac G5 that works fine.
post #28 of 70
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Originally Posted by jpellino View Post

Don't any of these folks own a compiler that can compile ppc?

From Thomas Legg's geek Blog:

http://www.the-eleven.com/tlegg/file...macosx-ppc.dmg

Works fine on my eMac [G4].
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post #29 of 70
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Originally Posted by Chris_CA View Post

I have an earlier version on my iMac G5 that works fine.

Works for me too

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post #30 of 70
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Originally Posted by elroth View Post

That's not true - it's got the play button at the bottom instead of the top. That's real innovation.

post #31 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by emig647 View Post

Firefox got popular for that very reason. IE was a buggy incompatible insecure mess. Songbird will be just like firefox for windows. Windows Media Player is a joke. Songbird is already a welcome replacement for it. And on top of that it works on linux, so it's going to explode into the linux world. Last I checked Linux + Windows marketshare > apple marketshare. I think it will fly just fine.

Yes but you are assuming most people even give a damn in order to go ahead and download it.
post #32 of 70
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Originally Posted by McDavies View Post

Seriously, Why an open source option for something that is free. Why not an open source option for something that we need. Say, a financial program like quicken or quickbooks, an area of little quality competition and could use a unbiased platform. I'm just thinking that in tough times that we are going through we want smart people working on music player.

Because Open Source proponents do not like binary anything, whether it is free or not. There is also the fact that there is no great be all end all on Linux, and iTunes is not available on that platform. Not that I would use Songbird or iTunes on Linux, Banshee is a great app and even Rythmbox is pretty good, and native.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

That depends on your definition of improve. If it's faster, uses less resources, allows me to connect any PMP and still offers the same functionality iTunes without requiring completely relearning the iTunes features I'm used to then I'd call it an improvement.

At least for me on OS X it is slower and less useful than iTunes. For one, and I know that there is work being done to circumvent it, it doesnt read my iPhone, so that makes it a pretty much complete no go right there. On Windows, Winamp and only Winamp is what I use to play music, I organize in iTunes and sync my phone from it, but I dont use iTunes for playback. It is just too large and slow compared to other solutions.
post #33 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

At first glance it LOOKS similar to iTunes... they probably want people to feel at home... but this is a completely different product. Just read the frikken feature list before stating it's a copy. Lazy, lazy people!!!

I downloaded it and imported my entire iTunes Lib. It is a 98% copy of the iTunes interface. If you did not know better you could easily think you were using iTunes. If I was in intellectual property Lawyer I could have fun with this one. I know that Apple and MS have a deal where that can freely copy each others Ideas yet they do not do it this blatantly.

A lazy man would comment on something that they have yet to use. Did you use the product before commenting on it? We all want to know
post #34 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

It's free, it's an alternative--why complain?

I have no interest in it--iTunes works great for me--but I'm not sorry to have another option too.

Agree - but I guess this is really one for the Linux crowd. Hopefully it will work flawlessly without extensions or plug-ins. The ability to add those is probably a good thing but in the battle to bring Linux to a mass audience infinite extensibility is not necessarily a good thing. Specially not if they are required for a fully featured product. Linux geeks (and other geeks) probably love plug-ins but average Joe, or Mary, just want the thing to work out of the box. You know... like your Mac.
Not saying Songbird won't do that. I'm just saying...
And yes, I must agree with the person who opined as to the lameness of the name. Songbird, Thunderbird... Lamebirds.
post #35 of 70
Sweet, I can't wait for a spreadsheet plug-in and disk defrag. Just what I want/need in my music playing software.

Sometimes specialized software is good enough.
post #36 of 70
Yeah, this'll be nice for Linux guys, myself included. However, it's largely useless right now if it can't import from CDs yet. Isn't that kind of a crucial component of a music player/db?
post #37 of 70
i want to give it a try :d lets see whos gonna win the Race
post #38 of 70
Songbird... Hmpf!

I'm waiting for Freebird where all the downloads are freeeeeeee!

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post #39 of 70
If they were to add things like non-Apple device support and linking to the amazon store, this might have some potential, but right now, its an uninspired second rate copy of an older version of iTunes. In other words, its kinda like Windows through vista.
post #40 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I think it is more creative than putting the same letter in front of half of your product names.

Creative, true. But creativity is not the standard for a good name.

Apple's iNaming system may not have creativity but it has helped them build a brand that is recognized around the world.

Not that I have a problem with Songbird, I actually like it. But I don't think the creativity angle needs to be lauded lest we end up with products titled with ever more esoteric/creative names.

Reminds me of the Saturday Night Live "commercial" for a competetion between jam producers riffing on the Smuckers tagline "with a name like Smuckers, it has to be good." It ended with something like "with a name like Roadkill Scraped Into a Jar it has to be fantastically awesome!" ...at least it is creative.
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