As a big fan of Firefox, I am always interested in any other projects that Mozilla might be dabbling in. Yesterday I began testing 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 thebut 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 :
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!