Sunday, June 15, 2008

New music player

Since just about forever I have used Winamp for my media player. It remains one of the few things that AOL has purchased and not turned in to useless crap. Nonetheless, when I switched to Linux, Winamp was no longer an option. There is a Winamp clone for Linux, but it suffered as a cheap imitation.
Ubuntu comes with Rhythmbox, which is a good player, but after I discovered Amarok I have been using it. It is quite a nice player, but a bit slow to load.
One of the creators of Winamp has started a new media player named songbird. Songbird runs on Linux, Mac OSX, and Windows. This is important because I have to use Windows in many settings, such as work, and it is nice to use the same software regardless of your OS. It is also built on Gecko, Mozilla's development platform that they build Firefox and Thunderbird on. Any user of either Firefox or Thunderbird will immediately feel at home with the look and feel of this application.
The real power of this application is that it is integrated into the Internet. To explain how this works, let's look at how iTunes works.
iTunes is a media player that integrates heavily into Apples iTunes store. From within the player you can browse and purchase music from iTunes.
Songbird is similar, except that it is open. From within songbird you can browse and purchase music from any online store. It offers lots of developer APIs to allow online stores to easily integrate with Songbird. And even for stores that do not, songbird will try to integrate anyways. If you visit any site that offers music downloads, it will pick up on this and offer you quick links to download the music.
This open nature provides one thing important to a healthy market, competition. While iTunes locks you in to Apple's store, with Apple DRM, and restrictions with how you can synch your music with your iPod, Songbird allows the consumer to decide the store to purchase music from, and they are working with allowing seamless transfer with any music device without restriction. This is open competition, and this is good for you the consumer.
Songbird is still in beta, but the development is going very fast. They just released a new version that can handle libraries with over 10,000 songs in them, which is really good compared to Windows Media Player which chokes on just a few hundred. Some things can still be a little quirky while it awaits coming out of beta and in to final, but overall it is a nice application with lots of promise. It is awesome to see something as simple as a media player be so exciting and cutting edge.