We’ve previously covered Songbird on Make Use Of when Mark wrote about it as an iTunes killer back in January. I then wrote my own article six months later presenting my own favourite Songbird extensions.
Since then I’ve been following the development of Songbird with a great deal of interest and was excited when Songbird 0.7 was released a few weeks ago.
This release introduced a great new UI, more features and significant performance improvements, all very welcome additions.
With Songbirdand cranking up the pace for a version 1 release by December I decided to contact the Songbird team for an interview about their project. Rob Lord is the founder and CEO of Songbird and took the time to answer these questions about Songbird:
Perhaps you’d like to describe the team behind Songbird. I believe a number of you have been involved in previous media projects?
Hi Laurence, thanks for the interview. Yes, our Pioneers of the Inevitable team includes key developers from media players including Winamp and the Yahoo! Music Jukebox.
What do you think about development in other media players? With 4 main choices for consumers (iTunes, WMP, Media Monkey and Winamp) and each with a pretty unique market, things seem to have slowed down in the last couple of years. Apple only releases a new version of iTunes when they have a new product to peddle and Microsoft with their newest OS.
Our perspective is that the traditional desktop media player feature list is complete, thus there has been little innovation in desktop media players for years. However, what happens when a desktop media player is connected to the Web is an unexplored and intriguing opportunity. Songbird re-architects the traditional desktop media player to go there. Songbird is an open, customizable desktop media player that is built to play the Web.
Songbird has an incredible amount of potential. Have you been getting much interest or support from significant online companies such as Amazon? Without an iTunes/iPod lock yet still supporting them I would assume companies would be jumping on an opportunity like Songbird =)
Songbird has attracted a lot of attention from consumer electronics companies, especially handset makers, and media retailers/service providers. We’ll be making announcements as the partnerships are ready to launch.
We hear everyday from device makers that they want to focus on their devices. We hear everyday from digital media retailers, subscription, radio, video, recommendation, locker and other service providers that they want to focus on their services. Yet everybody – users, developers, device makers and service providers – wants those devices and services to work together with software. But only Apple offers a credible integrated service + software + device experience. Songbird is the solution for all those who benefit from open, customizable media player software. Songbird is the open solution for service + software + device integration.
That said, Songbird isn’t yet ready for everyone. If a user needs full feature parity with traditional desktop media players or has never installed a Firefox add-on, Songbird isn’t ready for them yet.
Songbird is based on Mozilla and not Firefox itself as I initially assumed. Can you explain what this means? Do improvements in Firefox, such as FF3 and 3.1 become part of Songbird? Does the Songbird team work with the Firefox team?
Songbird, like Firefox, is built from the Mozilla platform. So, yes, new Firefox features and enhancements are inherited by Songbird. Also our team provides testing, fixes and patches back to Mozilla.
What’s the best song you’ve ever discovered through Songbird?
So much to choose from! A Ratatat remix from the Gorilla vs. Bear music blog comes to mind.
What feature do you miss the most personally when using Songbird? CD ripping and burning?
CD Rip/Burn isn’t an issue for me because I ripped my CD collection years ago. I’m 99% pure digital now. Key for me is support for my iPhone 3G so I can leave my older iPod behind. FYI, CD Rip/Burn is on our.
What Media Software did you use before Songbird?
Winamp was for many including me the seminal MP3 player. Winamp was first to go big in the 90s with skins, plug-ins, EQ, visualizations, etc. and its community responded with thousands of extensions – the kind of vital community we see supporting Firefox today. In the last five years, I found myself recommending iTunes to others for its relative simplicity — and found myself using it for the solid service + software + device integration.
The approach for Songbird is almost a “˜make-your-own’ media player, even more so than Firefox is as a browser. By that I mean the Songbird Media player includes only the most basic functions and almost all new features, device support and codecs are all added via extensions. It’s a great idea as users can avoid having any features they’ll never use (such as iPod support when they don’t have an iPod), however will the most popular extensions eventually become part of Songbird, or are you keeping the system like it is?
You nailed our thinking. Like Firefox, Songbird will offer a baseline of what ever media player user needs and then offer customization via add-ons to your specific media player preferences. We’re experimenting with including highly requested add-ons, such as Last.FM integration, in the first-run bundle.
Does using Songbird make you more attractive to the opposite sex?
Works for me and my lady. Try playing the Groove Salad channel via SHOUTcast for best results. YMMV. ; )
Tell us your five favourite extensions.
Hard to pick as there are over 250 Songbird add-ons currently – and they are all specialized features. We’re very grateful to all the individual Songbird add-on developers that have embraced Songbird and the Songbird community.
Rather than pick favorites, here are the add-ons with the widest appeal based on downloads:
– artist biography of the currently playing artist.
– a mash-up of Flickr photo, YouTube vdeos, Last.FM bios of the currently playing artist.
– Like iTunes Coverflow, view you music library by flipping through album art.
– retrieve album art from Last.FM for your music library.
– artist recommendations from Last.FM based on currently playing artist.
Songbird have also been cool enough to provide us with ato give away! To win this just comment below and tell us the craziest place you’re going to wear it (When you get the shirt we expect a photo proving it – and we’ll publish it! So no bare bottoms please!)
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR : MUO employees are not eligible to enter! This one’s for the readers! :-)