What do you get when you cross iTunes with a web browser? You get Songbird, an application built on top of Mozilla Firefox’s core technology that serves as a platform for media websites that want to integrate tightly with a desktop media player.
Perhaps the best way to explain Songbird is to compare it what Apple has done with iTunes. While iTunes is a traditional desktop application that must be downloaded and installed, the iTunes Store within iTunes is actually a website that meshes so seamlessly (and exclusively) with iTunes that you don’t really realize that you are browsing a website when looking for music to buy. Click to purchase some music and the iTunes Store website communicates with the iTunes desktop client to trigger certain functionality, like a user prompt and then a file download. Apple is able to contain the entire shopping experience within its media player, making the consumption of new music very convenient.
Songbird turned to Mozilla technology for its product because it wanted operating system agnosticism. Also, other possible web-to-desktop platforms, like AIR, were not created with an open source philosophy nor designed well enough for large-scale projects. Songbird envisions its platform being used not only for track download services, but for services based around any type of media such as video.
The Hype Machine, Insound, and SkreemR have programmed their websites for Songbird and are packaged with the latest release. A screenshot of the player I saw on their website also suggests that an iLike integration is in the works.
Songbird closed $8 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and Atlas Venture in December 2006. The software has been downloaded around one million times so far. And the company’s developers previously worked on Winamp and the Yahoo Music Engine.