Songbird 1.0 Flies: Flock of New Features on the Horizon

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 03, 2008

Last month, I took a brief tour of the pre-release Songbird music player. Songbird is a cross-platform media player based on Mozilla code. This week, the Songbird project released the finalized 1.0 version of the player.

The pre-release versions of Songbird featured iPod support, scrobbling, SHOUTcast radio, plugin extensions, and a localized concert discovery service. The 1.0 release adds one more feature to its default list -- MashTape -- and turns an ambitious eye toward the future.

For those that have previously installed Songbird, clicking the Help > Check for Updates option will upgrade Songbird to the latest version. This update was straightforward on my Ubuntu Intrepid machine, though Songbird didn't automatically restart when asked. I manually restarted the player, it detected and updated my added extensions, and suggested I install the default features (a few of which I had disabled previously).

I wasn't expecting much from the MashTape feature. Other players integrate similar features, and none really feel as though they're worth the screen real estate or potential drag on application performance (however negligible). I've got to admit, now, MashTape is sort of neat, and because Songbird's configuration is click and drag, it's easy to make disappear (or bring back) when desired. It displays the usual artist biography/discography information. Artist news is hit or miss -- Tenacious D's news seemed to come from HypeMachine, Tool's news came, apparently, from a Google News keyword search (unless the band's moved on to tracking family health statistics online, this method leaves a lot to be desired). The photos and video searches fell victim to the same keyword issues, but it was less jarring (and in the aforementioned Tool example, photos and videos returned more relevant content).

Songbird is working on improving metadata management, supporting more devices (iPhones, the iPod Touch, and Zunes are as yet unsupported), and adding album art fetching. The developers hope to add CD ripping, video, and the ability to automatically import files from "watched" folders to Songbird soon.

There are a few strong selling points for Songbird over other players. It is cross-platform, giving it a "consistent" feel for those who frequently use different operating systems. It works predictably, not just as a music player, but as an application based on Mozilla code. Installing add-ons and updating isn't much different here than in other Mozilla based projects. Then, of course, there is the open aspect. Even if you have no need or desire to alter any of the scripts that affect Songbird's function, the open nature of the project makes creating -- and sharing -- extensions and themes easier.