Nov 19 2011

Hello, Songbird

Here at SfSS, we love open source. I mean, we REALLY love it. And while we also for some reason love Apple (all of us do), we haven’t let that stop us from checking out open source alternatives to what Apple does well. If you’ll refer to my previous post, some of us still keep the faith with Mozilla. Consequently, I’ll be doing posts on Mozilla technologies from time to time. Today, it’s Songbird.

When Songbird came out, people branded it “the open source iTunes killer.” It hasn’t really done that. They also called it “the Firefox of music players” and it’s kind of that. It’s built on Mozilla’s XULRunner framework, making it particularly cross-platform (unless, of course, your platform is Linux, which they don’t support anymore). Consequently, Songbird is extensible – just like Firefox. And that default purple look? You can switch to another skin – er, feather (I am not making this up) – and be on your merry. Or, if you like a minimalist aesthetic, you can put it on “Mini View.”

Their stated mission is “to incubate Songbird, the first Web player, to catalyze and champion a diverse, open Media Web.” Remember that little discussion we had about an open web? Songbird is all over that. For more on what’s meant by an open web – and specifically who’s out there trying to circumvent it – I refer you to this post.

Full disclosure, here: it won’t work with your iPod. What it can do, and I know this is kind of disappointing, is, whenever you import music into Songbird, it can also automatically add it to your iTunes library. It will sync with your Android phone, and there’s a nice, informative post on how to do it here.

The Good:

  • Open source
  • Cross-platform
  • Easy migration/plays nicely with iTunes
  • Android sync
  • Integrated web browser
  • Uses lots of web services like, mashTape and SHOUTcast
  • Extensible
  • Lots of feathers (read: skins)

The Bad:

  • No iPod support
  • Not available for Linux anymore

The Ugly:

  • Exiting doesn’t behave like iTunes – you click the X, you close the program (there are workarounds)
  • Memory pig – used 40 MB of RAM when not playing a song more than iTunes did when playing music
  • Albums not delineated like in iTunes

Check it out! Let us know what you think.

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