There's a new kid in town, Songbird. Imagine if Firefox mated with iTunes, and somehow the gray and brush metal interfaces formed a midnight black child--that would be Songbird. Songbird is an attempt to use the XUL design framework from Mozilla Firefox to create a user experience similar to Apple's iTunes program. While some have said that Songbird is nothing but a direct rip off of iTunes, Songbird brings new ideas to the media player realm. Like iTunes (and most media players), there is a library with the typical sorting features. However, instead of only providing a single source for new content like iTunes has with iTMS, Songbird uses the whole internet as its "music store." Any site with open media content can be part of Songbirds "music store," as Songbird auto discovers tracks on the site. Songbird uses services from Amazon, Creative Commons, eMusic, and dozens of others. Podcasts and streaming radio are easily accessible sources of content in Songbird. A nice feature is the Wikipedia plugin (make sure to install it during the Songbird installation), which shows the Wikipedia page for the currently playing artist.
After testing the latest release (a "beta" of 0.2), I found Songbird interesting and refreshing, but at times slow. When adding content to my Media Library, I found the process to be slower than Winamp 5's process. The worst part came as I started to scroll through my music, when Songbird started loading in the ID3 tags for all the songs. This process took several minutes on top of scanning the directories. However, this process only occurred the first time I used Songbird, since then I have had no complaints about loading ID3 data. Overall the program does at times feel a little sluggish (on a Athlon 3000+ with 2.3 GB RAM). I'm not yet holding the Songbird team at fault for this one with a beta of their 0.2 release. Yet, one may question whether using the XUL interface will ever be as quick as a program like Winamp. But, I must admit, Songbird still seemed like a racehorse compared to Windows Media Player 10. The sluggish-ness is only noticeable when loading web pages or changing views in the player, song quality was perfectly fine when I just let it play. I definitely suggest keeping your eye on this program as it evolves.