Soo!… Alternatives to Winamp? Someone mentioned Songbird?

As I’ve already stated, there really aren’t any. OK, well there’s one or two, but only one is worth the pixels they’re written with. You have foobar2000 that feels like a bodge-job (though to be fair, I haven’t used it in a while). You have Exaile which for me certainly looks fabulous and has a great feature set but is Linux only. The best and brightest hope for a Windows alternative was Songbird. Songbird was like a dream come true to me when I found it, but sadly that was for all the wrong reasons. It’s FOSS and its based on the Mozilla Platform but that’s about where it stops being good.

However, that wasn’t actually gonna be deterrent. My experience of projects based around/within the Mozilla community is that they’re hard-working and committed, I was gonna exploit that. Not in the evil “muhahawawawa” way, but rather, I felt I’d attempt to guide it in a direction that best fit everyone. I thought I’d use it, see where it was lacking, how it could be proved and file bugs. No one expects every bug they file to receive NEW status let alone get a patch, but the important thing was to file the bugs and feel like someone in the right place has seen them. While a triager is a nice, you wanna feel like a dev or a product director has seen your bug and given his input on whether to go with it or not.

Sadly the project is somewhat wasted, you have some seemingly awesome staff there triaging the bugs, but in their effectiveness they make filing bugs tedious. If you can file bugs for Firefox and rely on the common sense of the devs to see what you’re talking about, this was the opposite expectation when filing bugs for Songbird. Little nit-picks here and there was a common theme and had this been effective in marking bugs as NEW or WONTFIX there would have been some vindication for the methodology, however that wasn’t the case and soo…

Songbird has at least from the outside in, shifted its focus to Android, which is a shame, in this time where everyone wants seamless integration on their desktop. Songbird has switched focus to the mobile operating system. It may turn out to be a stroke of genius, a method to attract new users, but if you’re attracting them to a player that looks dated and lacks basic features, is there much point? The nightly release of the player relies on users to manually download updates, with no emphasis on keeping these valuable testers up to date and in the loop.

Putting aside the missing features like the inability to act as a DLNA server, or before you even get there, the inability to import libraries from Winamp or the inability to drag-n-drop playlists on to the player, pretty much standard behaviour in everything these days. You have to wonder if Songbird really does carry the Mozilla torch. I believe that for now, at the very least we’re all locked into mp3 for a while, but there will come a viable alternative at some point, alas right now Songbird doesn’t have the weight to help push through an open alternative, but surely it can attempt to promote missing features that should be standardised across all platforms and media players, i.e. labelling/tagging instead of relying on ID3 to get their butt in order and modernise the available tags. If Mozilla is about intelligent design and the evolution of the web to remain open, can you attribute such a vision to Songbird or does it simply intend to just coast as a hobbyist media player?

Songbird as it currently stands, in my opinion brings to the fore the old adage that open source is sub-par and based on the era of yesteryear. With such tools and such an amazing powerful platform to work on as it’s foundation there’s no excuse for this. In a  time where Winamp is being neglected and is leaking users left, right and centre, it’d be nice to have Songbird further towards the centre of what is considered the media player experience and expectations on the desktop. Sadly for now at least, it doesn’t seem to be the case. All of those hackers that used to put together mods/plugins/skins for Winamp and before that Sonique are left wandering and quite possibly wondering if not hoping when something or someone will step up. So if the question is what are real alternatives to Winamp, there really aren’t any right now.


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