February 9, 2006 5:18 PM PST

Open-source iTunes rival launches

A San Francisco start-up released an early test version of its open-source Songbird music software Wednesday, with which its ultimately hopes to undermine the dominance of Apple Computer's iTunes.

Pioneers of the Inevitable is hoping to create "the Firefox of MP3," a reference to the open source Web browser that has eaten into Microsoft's Internet Explorer market share.

Songbird is indeed built on some of the same open-source technologies as the Firefox Web browser, and hopes to tap into the community of independent developers that has helped add features to Firefox.

The company, which is led by digital music veteran Rob Lord, has cautioned the open-source community not to expect a full-featured music player from this first release, which they are calling only a "proof of concept" for now.

The developers wanted to prove they could build a functioning music player on the Mozilla Foundation's open-source technology platform, and wanted to have something that other programmers could look at and build on, they said.

"We wanted to put a stake in the ground, and define what it means to 'Play the Web,'" Lord said. "I think we've done that."

Indeed, the first version has a tendency to crash occasionally, and lacks some of the more advanced features of an iTunes or Windows Media Player. But it does show off the company's vision of a music player that is focused on the Internet, rather than on a computer's hard drive.

Lord has said that his vision for Songbird is software that makes little distinction between songs that happen to be located on a local drive and music that is online. As an early example, the software contains a Web browser that lets listeners browse sites such as Pitchfork Media, and which automatically creates a playlist out of the MP3 songs that are stored on that Web site.

The player could also be used to tap into online music services such as RealNetworks Rhapsody or Yahoo's music subscription service, Lord has said. Before starting the Pioneers of the Inevitable, Lord was one of the product managers for the launch of Yahoo's service.

See more CNET content tagged:
open source, music player, vision, Firefox, Apple iTunes

40 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Usability Nightmare
Looks like it was built by engineers with no concern at all for usability and interaction design. Some people just don't get it.
Posted by mrvista (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I second this
Besides, One of the things that i love from iTunes is that i can mantain a library without wasting time and with minor efforts and it keeps it well organized on my HD. Media on the net I think is nice if I have the ability to download and listen to it later wherever I want, wherever I am.
Posted by YoN (11 comments )
Link Flag
Could you...
...elaborate? What specifically don't you like?
Posted by feranick (212 comments )
Link Flag
Usability
I think Songbird is rather easy to use and that is what I look for in Open Source. You also need to remember this is just the "proof of concept" release there will be improvements as they continue to develop it. I'm glad to see Songbird released!
Posted by jallen64 (5 comments )
Link Flag
Usability Nightmare
Looks like it was built by engineers with no concern at all for usability and interaction design. Some people just don't get it.
Posted by mrvista (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I second this
Besides, One of the things that i love from iTunes is that i can mantain a library without wasting time and with minor efforts and it keeps it well organized on my HD. Media on the net I think is nice if I have the ability to download and listen to it later wherever I want, wherever I am.
Posted by YoN (11 comments )
Link Flag
Could you...
...elaborate? What specifically don't you like?
Posted by feranick (212 comments )
Link Flag
Usability
I think Songbird is rather easy to use and that is what I look for in Open Source. You also need to remember this is just the "proof of concept" release there will be improvements as they continue to develop it. I'm glad to see Songbird released!
Posted by jallen64 (5 comments )
Link Flag
Songbird developer misses the point
OK. I'm a big fan of open source. I prefer it. But this is one of
those projects that doesn't make much sense. (I'm sure there
were folks that said the same thing about Mozilla a few years
back. And boy, were they wrong.) However, the difference with
this situation is that iTunes is the leader because of the iPod.
The iPod--eventually--will work well with Songbird, but it works
perfectly with iTunes now and will always. Since both apps are
free, iPod owners, the dominant force in digital players, will just
go with iTunes because it assures compatibility and it's easier to
deal with. This is similar to how IE continues to dominate
despite Firefox being a better option--IE is already there (on the
desktop) and it move well enough for undiscriminating users.
Posted by headsledge (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Songbird developer misses the point
OK. I'm a big fan of open source. I prefer it. But this is one of
those projects that doesn't make much sense. (I'm sure there
were folks that said the same thing about Mozilla a few years
back. And boy, were they wrong.) However, the difference with
this situation is that iTunes is the leader because of the iPod.
The iPod--eventually--will work well with Songbird, but it works
perfectly with iTunes now and will always. Since both apps are
free, iPod owners, the dominant force in digital players, will just
go with iTunes because it assures compatibility and it's easier to
deal with. This is similar to how IE continues to dominate
despite Firefox being a better option--IE is already there (on the
desktop) and it move well enough for undiscriminating users.
Posted by headsledge (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Won't replace iTunes, good concept for others
I don't think it will replace iTunes either. However, I do think it highlights a direction the market can take for 'everything else.'

If iTunes is the king of proprietary software/hardware solutions, then perhaps there's room in the market for the other extreme - the best "common denominator," a hardware and service agnostic solution.

I'd like to see them keep working on this, see where it goes. My gut tells me that there's a there there.
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I don;t think it will replace itunes in the near future but I'm
excited about the possibilities. I run and own a music download
store that specilizes in latin music and when deciding how to
implement my store we went with a web based approach
because the jukebox expensive was too prohibitive.

Even though it seems the trend is to go web based, I'd still like
to implement a jukebox solution... just because I couldn't when I
launched... lol....

So i'm really... really interested in this...
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
Link Flag
Won't replace iTunes, good concept for others
I don't think it will replace iTunes either. However, I do think it highlights a direction the market can take for 'everything else.'

If iTunes is the king of proprietary software/hardware solutions, then perhaps there's room in the market for the other extreme - the best "common denominator," a hardware and service agnostic solution.

I'd like to see them keep working on this, see where it goes. My gut tells me that there's a there there.
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I don;t think it will replace itunes in the near future but I'm
excited about the possibilities. I run and own a music download
store that specilizes in latin music and when deciding how to
implement my store we went with a web based approach
because the jukebox expensive was too prohibitive.

Even though it seems the trend is to go web based, I'd still like
to implement a jukebox solution... just because I couldn't when I
launched... lol....

So i'm really... really interested in this...
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
Link Flag
But it still can't do iPod
Until it can integrate and allow the transfer of music to my iPod, then I cannot say that it will replace iTunes.
Posted by gnotellaluvr (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But it still can't do iPod
Until it can integrate and allow the transfer of music to my iPod, then I cannot say that it will replace iTunes.
Posted by gnotellaluvr (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does it insure Artists are compensated as iTunes does?
I hope they are not offering for FREE, copywritten works.
For me, as a professional musician, and digital media content creator, I think it's a matter of LEGAL music, at a reasonable price, that is easy to do.

iTunes fits that description and that''s why it's succesful. I love it and wish it came out ten years ago when I stopped buying CDs because the record companies were gouging us and the number of tracks on the releases seemed to diminish over the years.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Umm
It doesn't "insure" anything. It's just a software platform. If other music stores choose to work with them (once the software is stable), then artists will be compensated. Hopefully the dominant platform for music players will be open-source, like this one, and not proprietary bloated crap like iTunes.
Posted by Anonymous Hero (47 comments )
Link Flag
Does it insure Artists are compensated as iTunes does?
I hope they are not offering for FREE, copywritten works.
For me, as a professional musician, and digital media content creator, I think it's a matter of LEGAL music, at a reasonable price, that is easy to do.

iTunes fits that description and that''s why it's succesful. I love it and wish it came out ten years ago when I stopped buying CDs because the record companies were gouging us and the number of tracks on the releases seemed to diminish over the years.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Umm
It doesn't "insure" anything. It's just a software platform. If other music stores choose to work with them (once the software is stable), then artists will be compensated. Hopefully the dominant platform for music players will be open-source, like this one, and not proprietary bloated crap like iTunes.
Posted by Anonymous Hero (47 comments )
Link Flag
Not an iTunes killer
I am not convinced that being open source makes a product
better. In fact, that belief seems to blind open source
programmers to their failings fairly often. They seem to think
that people should cut an open source product slack just
because it is supposedly less mercernary. I realize that this
effort is new, but if it remains shoddy, it will not stand a chance
against iTunes. I am another consumer who would need a very
compelling reason to consider something other than iTunes. I
don't expect to see one.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not an iTunes killer
I am not convinced that being open source makes a product
better. In fact, that belief seems to blind open source
programmers to their failings fairly often. They seem to think
that people should cut an open source product slack just
because it is supposedly less mercernary. I realize that this
effort is new, but if it remains shoddy, it will not stand a chance
against iTunes. I am another consumer who would need a very
compelling reason to consider something other than iTunes. I
don't expect to see one.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Calm down...
All fanboys (on either side) please stop!

1.This is an opensource proof of concept...not a finished or polished product...if you want a finished product...this is not it...DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT..EVEN THE PROGRAMMERS ARE SAYING THAT!

2.Nowhere in the story or on the Songbird site do the Pioneers of the Inevitable claim that this is an iTunes Killer...that is fantasy made up by the C:net reporter.

3. Many of us DON'T own an iPod (approx 90% of music players sold are NOT iPods) and don't want to replace the contraints of WMP with the constraints of iTunes (hmm...what else will those iTunes files play on again?)..we want something else entirely...this will hopefully be a nice alternative that will constantly be upgraded and be able to be personalized.

Sit back and relax...it's a software program not your mother your defending!

To the 'artist' that is thinks iTunes is the only place to sell music...if that were true I would be VERY worried for yourself indeed.

I would like to see Songbird extension writers add plugins for the new music phones that are out there...a different plugin for each person depending on the model of phone you have...hmm...
iTunes working with 42 million iPods or
Songbird (or similar program) working with 1.4 billion music capable cell phones and 420 million non-ipod music players out there (source of idea that ipods represent 10% of total music players: business week analysis <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/may2004/tc20040527_8900_tc056.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/may2004/tc20040527_8900_tc056.htm</a>)

So why not sit back and be in awe of people that can write software like this and stop expecting perfection on a proof of concept!
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why do you think we weren't calm?
Interesting title to your message.

Do you always put people on the defensive when you converse?
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Link Flag
Calm down...
All fanboys (on either side) please stop!

1.This is an opensource proof of concept...not a finished or polished product...if you want a finished product...this is not it...DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT..EVEN THE PROGRAMMERS ARE SAYING THAT!

2.Nowhere in the story or on the Songbird site do the Pioneers of the Inevitable claim that this is an iTunes Killer...that is fantasy made up by the C:net reporter.

3. Many of us DON'T own an iPod (approx 90% of music players sold are NOT iPods) and don't want to replace the contraints of WMP with the constraints of iTunes (hmm...what else will those iTunes files play on again?)..we want something else entirely...this will hopefully be a nice alternative that will constantly be upgraded and be able to be personalized.

Sit back and relax...it's a software program not your mother your defending!

To the 'artist' that is thinks iTunes is the only place to sell music...if that were true I would be VERY worried for yourself indeed.

I would like to see Songbird extension writers add plugins for the new music phones that are out there...a different plugin for each person depending on the model of phone you have...hmm...
iTunes working with 42 million iPods or
Songbird (or similar program) working with 1.4 billion music capable cell phones and 420 million non-ipod music players out there (source of idea that ipods represent 10% of total music players: business week analysis <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/may2004/tc20040527_8900_tc056.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/may2004/tc20040527_8900_tc056.htm</a>)

So why not sit back and be in awe of people that can write software like this and stop expecting perfection on a proof of concept!
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why do you think we weren't calm?
Interesting title to your message.

Do you always put people on the defensive when you converse?
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Link Flag
Move along, nothing to see here,...
When Sonbird gets to the point that iTunes is with a bilion+ in
sales, maybe i'll look. Until then I have iTunes and have no
problems with these mythic restrictions oyu speak of...

I make my CD's, I watch my video's I am happy. Shut the hell up
and leave me alone.
Posted by corelogik (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Move along, nothing to see here,...
When Sonbird gets to the point that iTunes is with a bilion+ in
sales, maybe i'll look. Until then I have iTunes and have no
problems with these mythic restrictions oyu speak of...

I make my CD's, I watch my video's I am happy. Shut the hell up
and leave me alone.
Posted by corelogik (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.