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As a big fan of Firefox, I am always interested in any other projects that Mozilla might be dabbling in. Yesterday I began testing Songbird which is Mozilla’s open-source version of Apple’s iTunes music player.

Songbird has the same basic design as iTunes but it’s black (default skin) and with added functionality. As with iTunes, you can import your music, subscribe to podcasts, create playlists, rate each song, synchronise your playlists with your computer files and so on.

But let’s take a look at what makes Songbird different from iTunes.

First, as with Firefox, you can download extensions to make Songbird look and act the way you want it. In fact, this is Songbird’s biggest advantage as far as I can see – the open-source platform. I’ve still to delve deeper into the lengthy extensions list but right off the bat, I downloaded an extension that displays the Wikipedia page for the band you are playing, as well as extensions for iPod support, and the ability to play protected Windows Media files and Quicktime files. The extensions box is virtually identical in design to the Firefox version :

SongBird Extensions


Secondly, again taking a leaf out of Firefox’s book, you can have tabs open up for web browsing within Songbird so in theory, you could look at your favourite webpages while playing songs (particularly useful if you need to search online for lyrics while a song is playing, for example).

Third, you have a choice of three music stores which gives you the chance to download new music. But what makes this different from iTunes is that here, you can choose between iTunes, Amazon’s MP3 store and eMusic. So you are not limited to one file format.


Fourth, and this is a neat one – you can shrink it to a basic version!


Other features include:

  • Play Anything : MP3, AAC, OGG, FLAC, WMA, and more.
  • Multi-lingual: Comes in 39 languages.
  • Integrated Web Search
  • Style with Different visual skins
  • Runs on Mac, Linux and Windows.
  • Play the Web
  • Play web pages as playlists and view any web page as a playlist.

One problem I have found is that you cannot run iTunes music files on both iTunes and Songbird at the same time. So if you want to run iTunes music on Songbird, you must first de-authorize and uninstall iTunes from your computer. This is the hated DRM copy protection at work, not the fault of Songbird.

Just to be clear, Songbird is not yet at the stage where it can be called an “iTunes killer” (the project is still very much in beta development) but it’s looking extremely good so far. As I’ve said, its biggest strength is in throwing open the source code and inviting developers to make new features and improve existing ones. Can you imagine Apple doing that with iTunes? I don’t think so!

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  1. Joe
    December 21, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Uh...iTunes can shrink to a mini player. This guy's review makes it sound like only Songbird can do the "basic version" he shows a screenshot of. Duh. I think it's just Cntl-M in iTunes or something like that.

  2. Dave
    September 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Face it, Foobar is the best music player there has been for years and still reigns supreme. I have tried them all and while Winamp is still decent the BO player by Bang Olufsen is about the only piece of software that compares to Foobar in sound quality.

    As far as Songbird goes, it is a resource hog and runs like garbage on my quad core 6gb rig, the one glaring feature it lacks but is very important is to have the cursor follow playback when you are in shuffle mode, it looks sexy, sound better than winamp and has potential but unfortunately it isnt even close to being half as good as Foobar at this point in time.

  3. Sylvain
    September 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Question is can it handle all the ipods, iphones, and does it have blackberry remote control tools?

  4. makka
    February 6, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Ick. Songbird worked HORRIBLY for me. I installed a 'feather' for it, and it didn't work. It hogged more than 50% of my CPU. iTunes at its WORST only takes up 10%. Maybe it's because I'm on a PPC and it was a weird port, but still...

  5. joomla boy
    July 28, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I'm looking for just ONE player which will allow me to also use the playlist window as a file system.

    Ie: Mass delete all my low rated songs, or copy my top rated songs onto a CD by just draging and dropping....

    I'll check out if it does that...

  6. Damian
    March 28, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    I was wondering about your 'store' screenshot - I've got Songbird, yet have never come across a window like this - where is it?

    • Aibek
      March 30, 2008 at 5:40 pm

      You'll need to install necessary plugin for that. In this case I think it's the one that shows artist's page on Wikipedia.

  7. Ben
    March 23, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    What theme are you using?

  8. ladycyber
    February 27, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    never seen it before

  9. Chrissy
    February 15, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Regardless of the specifics of which company if any makes it or whatever... Songbird seems to kick iTunes' ass.

  10. Tanner
    February 10, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Wow... I'd love to switch from iTunes to this...
    I'm probably gonna be asking a really dumb question, but... Is there a way to transfer your library from one media player to another without just re-adding every single file? I've got almost 2000 songs on iTunes and I reeeeeally don't feel like having to go through and add them all over again.
    Any help would be pretty... ballin.

    • seb
      January 28, 2009 at 2:59 am

      yes u can import your iTunes libery to songbird in the set-up menu

  11. Ben
    February 10, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    I've recently become a huge fan of freeware, and this seems like a great addition. I wonder if it uses less system power than iTunes?

  12. Michael Flowers
    February 8, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    I wish they would hurry up and make a full release! I can't wait to use the stable version! Oh well, gonna go download the beta, I can't resist!

  13. Jenny
    February 7, 2008 at 10:18 am

    I didn't know there was a MP3 player for it. Interesting.

  14. John Josef
    February 7, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I checked Songbird out a month or two ago... not sure where it is at now, but by the description I think this post came with too many early details that will shroud the bigger picture down the road. I think the "being in early beta" statement should have been made at the beginning of the post not the end.

    It does look promising though!

  15. Johnny
    February 7, 2008 at 2:49 am

    Songbird wasn't made by Mozilla, as said above, the browser just runs on the same platform as Firefox. Songbird is still in beta stage as far as I know, possibly even Alpha, and has a LOT of work to be done. I personally couldn't use it until it can do proper tabbed browsing, and can accept and run any Firefox add on. Until then I'm sticking with good old Swiftweasel.

  16. Verdican
    January 25, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Judging by looks along, I'm leaning towards this than iTunes. Perfect for those iTune haters.

  17. Caleb White
    January 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Disappointed at the lack of standard media player features, such as video capability and equalizer settings...but if this project takes off, I think it's going the right direction.

  18. Shubby
    January 25, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Pretty Rad piece of music player, downloaded it last week and its pretty amazing so far!

  19. koselara
    January 24, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Rats, I made another comment that was semi-large, but it vanished instead of posting! :-(

    I'll wait a few hours to see if it's caught in a spam trap that the siteowner would have to approve, then repost it if it's still missing. Otherwise, the short version was "Songbird isn't like traditional Mozilla apps, and I think Quintessential Media Player beta 5 follows the 'give you a core app and a ton of extensions/skins made by other people to make it fit your wishes' philosophy a lot better. Their forums are super-friendly, and if you search for 'freeware' you'll find an awesome 19-page ongoing discussion of available apps!" (It's all at in case it was my link that made the comment not post.)

  20. Sebastian
    January 24, 2008 at 7:12 am

    This isn't Mozilla Songbird. It's no Mozilla-project. It's based on the Mozilla platform, which is open source.

    • maven2k
      January 24, 2008 at 8:11 am

      Then why is it on Mozilla's site with Firefox & Thunderbird?

      • koselara
        January 24, 2008 at 10:11 am

        Maybe they link to anything being made using their platform, rather than only projects being run by the Mozilla team? They've done that with a few other apps in the past, I believe.

        • Aibek
          January 24, 2008 at 1:23 pm

          I am with Koselara on this one. As far as I know, Songbird has no "real" relation with Mozilla apart from using its platform.

  21. Dave
    January 24, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Songbird is listed on Mozilla's site but not "with Firefox & Thunderbird". Firefox and Thunderbird are listed under "Featured Mozilla Applications". Songbird is listed under "Featured Mozilla-Based Applications". These Mozilla-Based applications are "applications are built by individuals and organizations using Mozilla technologies"

    Here's a link to the Mozilla site that has these listings:

  22. koselara
    January 24, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I checked Songbird out a few minutes ago, but unfortunately it wasn't my thing, which was pretty depressing, as I've been a big Mozilla fan all along. :-( The problem is that I love the Mozilla apps because they traditionally let us control/pick everything aside from the core functionality -- a lot in Songbird that I didn't need seemed mandatory. (I say "traditionally" because Flock is also an exception to the rule, and since devs have said Firefox will essentially merge with it at some point in the future, I guess it's the future norm.)

    Personally, while it's closed-source, the amazing Quintessential Media Player Beta 5 has been my favorite for years. As is the user community, which is full of freeware lovers. :) You might find some other cool stuff in the huge thread that began as one guy's list of software that kicks *ss & is 100% free in 2005, and has taken on a 19-page life of its own since then.

    You can check out QMPb5's abilities on the website, or ask the community for details on what its advantages are over other various players. (I couldn't find a recent Songbird-specific comparison, or I'd link to it.) I'll spare you my own rundown, which got extensive once I started writing it! ;o)

    • Aibek
      January 24, 2008 at 1:29 pm

      Quintessential Media Player ? Strangely, I never heard about it before. Anyways, just went over the features and it seems pretty cool. Thanks.