Linked by Kroc Camen on Thu 4th Dec 2008 18:20 UTC
Editorial Songbird is a new open-source music player that has this week landed at 1.0. Songbird is described as a "web player"- a music player for this modern, connected era. It blends the web-rendering core of Firefox (Gecko), with the media capabilities of GStreamer- a cross-platform, open-source media playback engine.
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This review seems a little biased
by OddFox on Fri 5th Dec 2008 09:25 UTC
OddFox
Member since:
2005-10-05

This review seems a little biased towards expecting a full iTunes replacement on a 1.0 release, especially when you get to page 4 and read this:

"To call this product 1.0 is like throwing in the towel, accepting that it's just not possible to beat iTunes, or even Windows Media Player, or even support basic features - like playing a CD, that's been possible for around 16 years."

Ugh, Songbird never set out to replace iTunes or anything else, it uses a very flexible technology base that gives it the freedom to develop into so much more, eventually surpassing current media players in various fields. Personally, as a jukebox app it seems like it's come a long way, and the fact that it doesn't play CDs is something I'm perfectly fine with, considering CDs don't neatly fit into the whole paradigm of playing your personal locally-stored library of music. And these basic features are things that can easily be added on if someone really wanted to. I think the fact there isn't an add-on for this functionality kind of supports the idea that not many people want it.

On page three, all the bugs he mentions very well may be easily reproducible, but only on OS X, they are Mac-specific. The reviewer couldn't be bothered to load up Boot Camp or VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop to give the Windows version a spin to see if it suffered the same problems? Come on, some metrics put OS X market share even further behind Linux market share (Though I would say OS X is probably ahead slightly on desktops). I point this out because this is obviously someone who is deeply entrenched not only in Apple technology but in Apple ideology. Look, a jukebox app doesn't have to support everything Apple under the sun to be a successful and useful jukebox app, it has to do what it advertises, and that's play media. In this case, the reviewer either can't read the front page for Songbird or the Songbird developers responded incredibly quickly to this article because it notes prominently that it is a music player. They aren't hiding anything.

Let's go along the cons here:

No direct podcast support, can be "emulated" through subscribing to a website or RSS feed XML - Granted, but wouldn't this require built-in video playback support, not just streaming via the web interface?
No CD support - Addressed earlier in my post.
Vague privacy - Granted, they should probably develop a privacy policy to assuage fears.
Long road ahead to feature parity with iTunes - This is so conceited, by my measure it is already far surpassing iTunes in features, most importantly playback of every format I can think of. Everything else can be added via extensions, so ultimately this program has far more potential than iTunes could even dream of. This kind of arrogance is typical of people who use iTunes for a far more specific subset of needs (My iPod!) than the average user who just wants to play their collection.

Now the sins:

I encountered many bugs, big and small, just in my normal usage - Addressed earlier, these bugs are not reproducible without using your specific platform, and I hope you submitted some bug reports.
No video support, no UX to acknowledge that - The front page says "The Open Music Player". When did music player translate to audio/video?!
Second class citizen on OS X. Lacking theme polish. Poor non-standard behaviour - Look, OS X gets less attention not because of any snubbing but because of a lack of resources. If you want it to be better on OS X, provide constructive feedback through the proper channels.

All in all I think this review could do with a little more depth and a little more thoughtfulness. It praises Songbird's innovation while at the same time bemoaning its feature set because it lacks specific technological tie-ins that he has gotten so attached to. This is a jukebox application, it is not an iTunes killer, though in time I have no doubt addons will arise that will make iTunes less necessary for those techs that Songbird currently lacks. This review is so incredibly short-sighted to ignore that Firefox became arguably the greatest web browser period not because of it's base package but because of the cornucopia of extensions to make it behave how you want it to behave, not how some developer decided it should.

Really, every single compliment given to Songbird seems to be completely backhanded, and it's insulting to say its chances of success on Linux is much greater than on Windows or Mac OS X because quite frankly it has the greatest challenge on Linux, and that's beating amaroK and the likes of mpd.

Reply Score: 3

Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

iTunes already exists, and most people are using it. I compared it to iTunes, even unfairly, because that's exactly what it is up against when people download Songbird to use it.

There is no magical amnesia effect that means when you install Songbird, suddenly I no longer have any need at all for the features I was using in iTunes.

Being a 1.0 is not an excuse - when people are going to download Songbird and try it out, many having already used iTunes and Windows Media Player -- and yes, many may find that Songbird is a very good player because they never used CDs anyway &c.

If you expect fairness, because you expect me to address Songbird from the perspective of a user who has never used any other media player before, then you should write a rebuttal article. Correct me.

As it stands, Songbird is an innovate project, that doesn't do what I'm currently doing with other software.

As for OS X. It's my primary platform. It takes care and attention to detail to make a decent Mac app, and that is a good sign of quality in any new app to see that attention given. I should have added that Firefox didn't get the right sort of attention until 3.0.

If I can use a product for the first time, and spot 10-15 glaring bugs within a few hours use, there's something wrong the development process, or simply not enough eyes viewing the product during beta. (Apparently none, given I could uncover bugs within seconds).

It doesn't matter if I'm using Windows or OS X - if I'm finding bugs that quickly then I highly doubt that the product will be flawless and bug free on another platform.

As I've made clear - I'm not being kind to Songbird just because it's new, or because it's some darling of open source. It's playing in the real world, and the real world means iTunes; like it or lump it.

It's a good project, that will yield results in two to three years, but I'm not going to write a floral and superficial review like that I've seen elsewhere.


edit: PS. modded you up, all valid criticisms.

Edited 2008-12-05 10:51 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

OddFox Member since:
2005-10-05

Get a sense of perspective Kroc, you act like iTunes wasn't woefully inadequate in its 1.0 days when compared to how it is now. Here's a little bit of history for you: http://www.tuaw.com/2006/09/14/itunes-from-0-0-to-7-0/

I blasted you for being unfair to Songbird by expecting it to be a drop-in replacement for iTunes at its first 1.0 release, when iTunes has taken what, almost 8 years to get to the point it's at today. You make it seem like a 1.0 release is the only chance that an application has to flesh out what it really truly is, and you ignore that your little darling program was, in all honesty, a piece of junk when it first hit the scene, compared to what people had been using.

MacOSX and Linux users (Of which I am both a part of) are notoriously unforgiving of a program that is not completely spick-and-span, conforming entirely to whatever UI guidelines and setup they may have. We also tend to forget that development of a software project is ultimately community/user-driven through feedback to the people who have the ability to add/tweak things. "It takes care and attention to detail to make a decent Mac app, and that is a good sign of quality in any new app to see that attention given." Please, it takes care and attention to detail to make a decent app on any platform, and you are being nothing but unreasonable in expecting perfection, as you say it flawless and bug-free. Guess what, very few programs are flawless and bug-free, and they tend to be incredibly small and for a very specific purpose. Your beloved iTunes is in no way flawless and bug-free, just a few months back it was causing Blue Screen errors on Vista: http://gizmodo.com/5047721/itunes-8-causing-huge-problems-bsod-for-...

Wow, I guess that must mean Apple is some sort of amateur outfit who couldn't be bothered to test on every platform they release for as thoroughly as we would like them to test. Stop expecting the world and then some from this small group of open source developers with infinitely less resources than corporations like Apple and Microsoft. The point is that bugs happen, we provide feedback and they get squashed. It's not like Songbird formatted your data partition or something monumental, it lost focus or had shortcomings on your niche system (Yes, OSX is a NICHE market). Logic dictates one should focus a review on what the application says it sets out to do, and you do it in an unbiased manner. Basically what you provided here in this article is a review of Songbird for OSX as if OSX was a primary development target, which is ludicrous when you yourself are aware that Firefox even up until 3.0 was not entirely up to snuff visually for a lot of OSX users.

Kinda boils down to you expecting far more from this music player than it said it had. One look at the features page mentions absolutely nothing about anything you complain about being missing, with the exception of them stating video support and cd ripping are coming down the tube. And you use the fact that they have "Coming Soon" features at the bottom of the feature page as some sort of How Dare They, like they're trying to hide something by merely putting it where it makes sense. Their website isn't some DVD where Coming Attractions makes sense to put at the beginning, their website is there to convey information in the order which it should be conveyed. Here's what we have, here's what we are close to having, and here's what we want to have.

Reply Parent Score: 1

UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

Being a 1.0 is not an excuse - when people are going to download Songbird and try it out, many having already used iTunes and Windows Media Player -- and yes, many may find that Songbird is a very good player because they never used CDs anyway &c.

Um... you're comparing a relatively new 1.0 piece of software, to a much older and mature 8.0 piece of software. Do you really not see a problem there? The higher version (especially with such a difference in number) is obviously going to be more feature-rich and most well-tested version in most cases. It even has the added bonus of being pre-installed on every Mac, so surely they've hammered any major (and most minor) bugs.

I would be a bit curious (and not in a good way... skeptical would probably be a better word) if a new 1.0 product was every bit as fully-featured as iTunes. I would expect to see lots of major bugs, possibly instability, a weak GUI, and a poorly-designed program overall. Think Microsoft, or all the other crap that corporations like to shove in our face at a high price... over, and over, and over. [Unfortunately, not even open source is innocent of this.]

And why the hell do so many people think that and audio player should for whatever reason also be able to play video files? That's one thing that really pissed me off about Winamp (plus many, many more things after that happened).

Reply Parent Score: 2