Earlier today we featured the first release candidate of Songbird, an open-source, cross-platform media player cut from the same cloth as Firefox. Songbird has been in development forever, but now the exciting media player is finally approaching its 1.0 release, and we were eager to sink our teeth into it. Keep reading for a closer look at Songbird—including where it soars and where it sucks.
What's Exciting About Songbird
Songbird is a forward-thinking media jukebox. It's all about using information and media freely available on the internet to transform a typical media player into a music-lovers utopia. It does this in a number of ways.
First, and foremost, Songbird is based on the Mozilla code that runs apps like Firefox and Thunderbird, which, among other things, means that it's extensible in the same way those applications are.
It's also a tabbed browser, capable of playing any embedded MP3 or searching popular music sites—like previously mentioned Skreemr—and seamlessly downloading that music to your library.
Songbird also promises dream-like integration with iTunes for those of you who are just too hung up on iTunes to give it up. When you first open run Songbird, just tell it to Import your iTunes library. You can even have Songbird update its library with any changes made to your iTunes library each time it runs. When the import finishes, all of your iTunes playlists (regular and smart) should be sitting comfortably in your sidebar.
Songbird suggests several extensions when you first install it, including one that adds iPod support and another called mashTape, which integrates with web services Last.fm, MusicBrainz, Google News, YouTube, and even Flickr to give you artist info, videos, and photos while you're listening to music.
At first glance, I love everything about Songbird. In fact, I've been excited about Songbird ever since I first learned of the project almost three years ago. Unfortunately, then and now, Songbird has its problems.
When I tried importing my iTunes library out of the blocks, Songbird took forever to import my 6500+ tracks. It took rougly 17 minutes to hit 99%, then sat there for an additional 20 minutes before I gave up on it and hitting cancel. When I did, I got the error message below.
I don't know for sure whether or not the unsupported files were the cause of the delay or not, but either way it was a drag.
Unfortunately the bugs don't stop there. At one point, I double-clicked on the album art for a larger view, but it displays as a pop-up, so when I couldn't close it, I couldn't do anything. I hit Cmd-Q to quit the app, but that just closed the album art window. That made me happy until I realised that everytime I tried double-clicking a track to play it, Songbird thought I wanted to edit the track instead. That was interesting because I wasn't aware of the inline editing and I love that kind of inline editing, but it's not what I wanted to do at all.
I also received alerts every time a track changed from my Flash player telling me that "Adobe Flash Player has stopped a potentially unsafe operation." The alert prompts me to change my Flash settings, so when I click Settings as it asks me to, I see the disturbing alert message at right. (I suspect the mashTape extension is at fault, but as a suggested extension, it reflects poorly on the core application whether the extension is at fault or not.)
Everyone (myself included) wants Songbird to be an iTunes killer, and frankly, if it accomplished everything it sought to, it would have a great chance at being just that. I understand that the application I'm using isn't the final 1.0 release, but we shouldn't be seeing all these bugs in a release candidate.
In the meantime, apps like the very popular MediaMonkey, foobar2000, and even Winamp offer strong alternatives to the status quo. (Check our Hive Five Best Desktop Media Players for more.) I just wish Songbird could fly a bit higher without making users feel burned.