Linux

Songbird has sung its last song...on Linux

Songbird on Linux is no more. Will the newly forked Nightingale succeed? And SHOULD it? Find out what Jack Wallen thinks by reading on.

I realize I am a bit behind on this (the news "broke" in April), but I have to say I'm fairly surprised. It seems the makers of that fine media player Songbird have given the axe to supporting Linux. Their reasoning - lack of developers and their inability to keep Songbird on par with the Windows and Mac versions. Of course, it didn't take long before one of the active Songbird developers forked Songbird into a new Linux-first project called Nightingale. But already this project seems to be unstable enough to make one believe it will fail before it takes flight.

I have to say this whole turn of events really surprises me -- first and foremost because a project had a lack of Linux developers. Think about it - Songbird is based on Firefox XULRunner and we all know how heavy on the Linux side Firefox development is. So how could a project, based on one of the most-used apps in Linux history, suffer from a lack of Linux developers? It just sounds suspect to me.

Ultimately though, why does this matter? Linux already has a wealth of media players. We have Banshee, Rhythmbox, Amarock, the tried and true XMMS, VLC, Dragonplayer, and many more. Here's the rub; Songbird was the only media player that was (please smack me for saying this) iTunes-enough for the average user. Yes, I do hate that it's come down to this, but the average user has associated music playback with iTunes. It's the same thing as asking someone to open up a browser and they immediately think "Internet Explorer" (or, even worse, they say, "What's a browser?"). That is why this project was important to Linux. It brought to the platform a near-universal standard that people understood. When the average user opened up Songbird, it didn't matter what platform they were on, it was instantly familiar. It looked and felt like iTunes. And as much as I hate to admit this, that is important to getting new users to adopt.

I'm not saying that a Linux distribution need seek out every application that mimics that of another platform. But I am saying Songbird on Linux was a poorly handled project. Songbird should have been included in live distributions and placed, front and center, so that new users could say, "Oh, that must be my iTunes!" It's kind of like saying I'll google that on Google. Any other search engine is plagued with that user-familiarity. People won't be saying, Let me bing that or Go yahoo that and let me know what you find out. People still say CD, even though CD sales have plummeted thanks to, guess what, iTunes (and other iTunes-like services). Of course I understand the Songbird development team had to focus on the platforms that would bring them immediate success - Windows and Mac. But leaving behind Linux seems, at least to me, a bit short-sighted.

Fortunately, for Linux, the remaining media players are equally as good as iTunes. And now that Ubuntu has upped the ante with the UbuntuOne Music Store Linux finally has its iTunes. In fact, I am currently listening to and shopping for music as I type (Yes 90125 or the Silent Hill Original Game Soundtrack?) with Rhythmbox...a fantastic music player that should not, in its own right, be thought of as a substitute for iTunes. Rhythmbox is not iTunes and it doesn't try to be iTunes. Songbird did, in many ways, try to be iTunes. And if the Nightingale project fails, Linux will miss this pseudo-clone of the Apple perennial. Linux will not have its google of music players.

Will Linux suffer if Nightingale fails? No. Would Linux better for having Nightingale? Of course. Should the Linux community reach out to the Nightingale project and ensure it doesn't fail? Hard to say. If given the choice between more rapid development and features for the current standards (Rhythmbox, Banshee, Amarock) or including Nightingale in the mix (and slowing down development of the others), I would happily say forget Nightingale. But given that Linux needs as many familiar tools as it can get, Nightingale could (and should) be a very important project.

So, to that end, I would say if you are a developer and are interesting in building projects that can only serve to HELP Linux be familiar to new users, head on over to the Nightingale Web site and introduce yourself. I'm sure the development team would be more than happy to have a new cook in the kitchen.

I wish the Nightingale project the best. I hope they succeed. This project does serve to illustrate how dedicated and agile the Linux community really is. Take something away from them and they will regroup and restore. Kick them down and they will get back up. So long Songbird...and thanks for all the fish.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

26 comments
public_domain
public_domain

any halfwit that doesnt see the advantage of LINUX over windozer is a true halfwit. and even a halfwit can manage to feel good about himself with enough support...

brian
brian

"why does this matter? Linux already has a wealth of media players." "I'm not saying that a Linux distribution need seek out every application that mimics that of another platform." "Songbird on Linux was a poorly handled project." "the remaining media players are equally as good as iTunes." "Ubuntu has upped the ante with the UbuntuOne Music Store Linux finally has its iTunes." Though, I have to take issue with a few lines... "Songbird should have been included in live distributions and placed, front and center, so that new users could say, 'Oh, that must be my iTunes!' " NO. Absolutely not. The motivation of "front and center" placement in a distribution should always be end-user experience and the current quality of the project vs. user familiarity with the previous standard. It SHOULD NOT EVER be the endorsement of a particular up-and-coming project. Especially when, as you say, the project isn't getting enough developers, isn't reaching the same level as the existing media players, and isn't providing features that aren't done better elsewhere. I have suffered so much end-user anguish because of this ADD approach to development, forking software when it sounds like fun, handing the spotlight to whatever happens to be shiny at the moment. Linux may be some peoples' personal playground for exploring the diversity of the development community, but that is not a good way to run an OS that people want to use. "given that Linux needs as many familiar tools as it can get, Nightingale could (and should) be a very important project." Is there some reason this has to be a totally different project, and cannot be a UI theme of a more solid "iTunes-like" project like Amarok? Then maybe a few developers get freed to work on things like volume leveling or command-line access to the filter search instead of re-inventing the wheel with new rims. Sorry I'm just really tired of this ugly development circle in Linux software. Seems like whenever something gets to the 85% mark and the work gets a little tedious, people get ADD and abandon that remaining 15%, developing silly geek features instead of important core functionality, or jumping to new projects entirely and starting over. The difference between Linux and a successful OS is follow-through, strategy and polish. Swapping out default software whenever something else is shiny is the opposite of that.

Tolga BALCI
Tolga BALCI

[quote] Ultimately though, why does this matter? Linux already has a wealth of media players. We have Banshee, Rhythmbox, Amarock, the tried and true XMMS [/quote] Amarok I suppose, not Amarock? ;)

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

I hate iTunes (probably only because its an Apple product), but I loved Songbird. It was always the very first app I installed on any new release of ubuntu. The second thing I did was change the feather to something black. Oh well, my loss.

Giph
Giph

I agree that it was an attempt to mimic the i-tunes look & feel. The features I liked about it & any media player are: +cross platform [I hate falling in love with an application on my linux box at home & then having to revert to something else when I go to work or vice versa]; +had some cool plugins [ie. lyrics]; What I didn't like was: -it was not resource friendly [neither is i-tunes, which is one reason why i hate it]; non-customizable hotkeys [my favorite media players are xmms & winamp mainly b/c I am used to the hotkeys. VLC is a no BS alternative which plays almost everything right out of the box, which is very customizable as well...]. I don't think the exit of songbird will harm the linux community at all, but agree with Jack that it sounds a bit fishy, if a mozilla based app doesn't have enough linux intel interested in it. what is this world coming to?? I was happy to see it arrive, but don't think I will miss it at all. There are so many nice alternatives. Amarok is alot like the i-tunes interface too, & that's enough for me if I actually want something that bulky in my face when I am trying to bang my head...

Jaqui
Jaqui

what's itunes? for my own music collection, any of the existing media players work just fine, though I do tend to use amarok most often.

lefty.crupps
lefty.crupps

Of course it hurts. The loss of any application, especially a FLOSS one, hurts the GNU/Linux/BSD ecosystem.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's certain to encourage people to use Linux. Nothing like showing that old friendly 'open source community' spirit.

jlwallen
jlwallen

Nice to see you back on the forum!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Or why consumers prefer this. Purchase the download via a web browser like anything else you buy off the web.

Jaqui
Jaqui

what is itunes? heard the name, but never ever seen it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's the same reason people kept buying TVs with integrated VCRs; it's feels more convenient - until you have to return the whole thing for repairs anyhow. All media in one place centralizing advertising. This increases the chance of cross marketing ("oh, they have the soundtrack for the movie I'm currently renting/buying"). It increases the chance of impulse sales because it's so easy to click the ever present "buy now" button. I gotta admit, the "buy now" and "rent now" options when your already looking at your content library is pretty effective. I agree though, it seems like undiagnosed mental illness that keeps people flocking to the limited walled garden that is Itunes bundled hardware. If I buy a mobile phone, I'd like it to work without having to prove worthy with Itunes ona Windows/osX machine.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'll second that request. I'd love to see Mediamonkey source go cross platform. It's my Windows first choice. Manages ripping well and provides full directory/name organization based on metadata.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Itunes is provided as a Windows and osX native build. It started as a media manager and player which Apple bought to bundle with some new mp3 player it was rumored to be working on (at the time). This all-in-one app does: Media management - started with music files but now manages video files and applications. Does not provide way to customize library directory tree (it's a mess when you look at the folders instead of Itunes listing). Media playback - started playing music files and naturally evolved into player video files. Sync application - yes, we lived through the evil and experience of custom sync apps only to now have a music player market dominated by a custom sync app required to make your device usable (including "activating" the mobile phone). Media purchasing - how else is one to load up the Igadget.. music, movies, software and a shnazzy payment interface; it's the Apple media store front sitting on everyone's desktop. Media rental - being able to rent a movie so easily is fantastic. The terms are reasonable also; you have 48 hours to watch/re-watch this movie starting from the first time you play it. Just be prepared for the initial download; it always seems to take much longer than the size of file should. It's Apple's key stone; that which the house of blocks is currently relying on as a central binding agent. It's a do-everything app that really should be broken into multiple separate apps. It is to Windows what Flash is to osX in terms of a bloated mess of code often required by the user as an unwanted but tolerated guest.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Tried installing it on a VM once, it failed to start up. Friend of mine actually has an iPod and never uses it cause it requires iTunes to be installed.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Apple does NOT support GNU/Linux at all and has no intention of doing so. which is why Apple gets none of my business. if they want my money, they can support my operating system. edit to add: Thier lack of support for GNU/Linux is stupidity, when you conside that Macos is a Unix, and GNU/Linux is a Unix-like os, it's a fairly simple recompile of the Macos sources to have a GNU/Linux build of their software.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

My understanding is it is both a media player and manager, and Apple's retail store for content and apps. I've never seen or used either. I'm not sure if the media player client is mandatory to access the store, or if that's just Apple's preferred but optional method. I know it's available for Windows and all of Apple's clients; the status of a Linux port is unknown to me.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Steam and like services are giving it new life. Lots of Indie games as well. I just was playing Trine, a fairly short, but really good game with really pleasant graphics, smart controls and challenging levels, challenging for the right reasons. Bought it for 5 bucks on steam after playing the demo.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The game companies say PC gaming is dead while they turn a blind eye to all the PC gamers being starved of content and forced away from PC gaming. (no PS3 thankfully after Sony's last "update") Heck, I've three consoles at home and I still take the time to close out everything I'm doing and reboot the desktop over for gaming.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I am the same way, without a demo, I won't even bother, how am I supposed to find out if it will work on my computer?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If it doesn't come with a free trial, I'm not downloading it. If the trial expires and I don't curse and scream, I'm not buying it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Online subscription based games are already banned in our house. If I signed up for Steam, there would probable be severe negotiations about local games remaining except from prohibition. :D

Slayer_
Slayer_

This happens to me often on Steam, I just out of the blue buy games I would never buy from a physical store. My buddy is even worse, he buys game packages just because they are on sale, he was 20 steam games already, only 2 he has actually played.

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