Songbird: an iTunes alternative?


Ever since I caught whiff of Songbird — a sexy (and shiny!) black, cross-platform, Firefox-based, open-source music player — I have waited with bated breath for the OS X download. When I discovered that they have finally released a (very) beta version, I eagerly downloaded it, bugs and all.

While fun to fiddle with, it is still a bit buggy to really use at this point (I had difficulty even starting it twice without reinstalling it). Despite its current instability, I think it shows great promise: Since it’s based on a web-browser, its interface include a multitude of links to various music and audio sites, from which Songbird easily allows you to play music and podcasts, or download them to your library. It nicely integrated my current music library, sorts my music much like iTunes does, and includes the capability to burn playlists to cd’s.

Can Songbird serve as an adequate replacement for iTunes? I think it’s difficult to say at this point: Despite the dizzying array of music sites from which to download music, Songbird cannot utilize the iTunes music store, nor can it, at this point, integrate with your iPod out of the box. What is exciting however, is it’s extensibility. Much like Firefox, Songbird encourages the creation of third-party extensions and plugins, which opens up a world of potential: not only is an iPod plugin possible (in fact, it looks as if it is already actual!), but it may offer a multitude of other features that iTunes can’t.

While I don’t think it will replace my iTunes quite yet, I look forward to seeing how Songbird develops.




I know I’m nitpicking but Songbird is based on the Mozilla framework, not Firefox.
Firefox, Thunderbird, Camino etc. are applications developed with the Mozilla framework.
Songbird therefore is not based on a web browser but an open source development environment.


Songbird is an excellent iTunes alternative.
Though, it’s still 66 Mb on disk (iTunes is 33 Mb).
If you are looking for lighter and faster choices, check out this test of 5 free iTunes alternatives


What I’m really looking forward to is a ‘light and lean’ music player. Did anyone notice that iTunes is a real chugger? It takes up all this memory… and more and more screen space with bullshit music store features. iTunes was super convenient at first and seemed to have the user in mind… but I think they’ve been swept away in their own hype over this iTunes store shit. We’re a long way from Winamp… I want something full featured and light!


Yeah, I just upgraded to the new 7.1 (7) and it unexpectingly quits every about every 10 minutes. I love mac, and I have 6 of them…5 g4s and 1 g5. This stuff sucks, I need music and I gotta find a non-bugged player. When will songbird be non bugged???


I’m curious because after being nagged by iTunes to upgrade, I caved in. It killed my system. Luckly it was a dual boot system with Linux on it, so I was able to save my files. But,
apple is loosing it’s touch. This is the second fairly serious time they have done this kind of thing to me. So while I like the iTunes interface, I don’t like spending my weekend recovering my system because I “upgraded” and application that seems more trouble than it is worth. Applicatioins should not kill your system. So goodbye apple.

Erik Staats

One of Songbird’s best features is its openness, not just for extensions but for music and media services. Unlike iTunes or Microsoft’s offering, Songbird is designed to interface with any service. This includes traditional music stores as well as peer to peer networks, tagging sites, lyric sites, ablum art sites, etc.
If the iTunes store or Urge and Fair Play or WMA are all you’ll ever want, Songbird probably isn’t for you. However, if you want the experience of iTunes and integration with the iTunes music store, but with MP3 or indie music stores, Songbird will be much more interesting. There’s quite a few new music and media services sprouting up, but few of them integrate with media players.
As for extensions, I’ve written extensions for iPod support and for importing playlists from iTunes. These are available at These are pretty standard fare feature wise. I’m also working on an extension that will make tracking your favorite artists easier, if you’re a big fan. I think you’ll see more original functionality like that with the open architecture of Songbird.

Richard Hirst

It looks like an (ugly) black version of iTunes that does what iTunes does in a way that iTunes does it, just without the nice interface or great music store. Then throws in a bunch of other useless rubbish and they call them “features”.

I don’t think so.

Marcus Wortley

I been playing about with this for a while, it always freezes on playing a track lol. I will take a second look once the Beta evolves on a few more revisions as it does show great proimise, wonder how the PC version fares? I’ll prob post on there feedback forums too request stuff like Podcast functionality, LAME & Skins etc in due time. Lets face it I tunes was great and fresh a few years ago but the encoding has always been terrible by pro-audio standards.

Brandon Eley

I think it’s great that companies are still innovating. There are a lot of features that need to make their way into iTunes. I doubt I’ll use a third party program like this, but it would be nice if it’s features got enough notice that Apple took a serious look and listened…


Eh, I’ve downloaded and fiddled with Songbird. It’s passingly interesting, but little more than that. The big problem is that it suffers from the “What is it” syndrome. Is it a web browser? A music player? Both? If both, why? I just don’t get why it exists.

Daniel Brauer

I don’t think you can replace iTunes on most geeks’ Macs without breaking a lot of integration with programs that expect it to be there. Heck, even iChat and Mail integrate with it. Unless Songbird plans to painlessly re-route iTunes Applescript commands to itself, I probably won’t even download it. That kind of sucks.

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