Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sing Song Browser

MOST of us prefer some music in the background as we surf the Net or check mail at home. Some others, especially the more culturally inclined among us, surf the Net mostly for music. It is keeping these two types of surfers in the mind that Pioneers of the Inevitable, a group of designers and developers, some of whom have worked behind popular programmes like Firefox, Winamp and Yahoo Jukebox, decided to create an “open customisable media player” called Songbird.

To put things in perspective it’s a great music player which also doubles up as a decent browser. Since its release last year, the webplayer has been a rage among hardcore surfers as well as Net music junkies. The programme is open source, and developers around the world are currently working on new add-ons that add to the Songbird experience. There are around a hundred add-ons — from the brilliant to the downright ridiculous — on last count.

The browser is basic, considering that almost all the add-ons are for the music player. However, with a look and feel similar to Mozilla Firefox, it works fine and even supports tabbed browsing.

But Songbird is more about the webplayer. It runs on Windows, Linux and Mac, and helps users create dynamic playlists that automatically update based on the criteria you set. It can also be customised by downloading the scores of skins, aptly called feathers, that help tweak the appearance according to your style.

You can search a multitude of songs directly on the webplayer and download them from free servers. There are also a couple of handy tools that help eliminate duplicity and ghost tracks in the library—I found out that my library had 300 tracks which were appearing twice. The player can also be synced with MP3 players like iPod.

Another interesting feature is SHOUTcast Radio which allows you to stream in media from hundreds of online radio stations in various genres with much less buffering time than other media players. Users also have the option to bookmark favourite stations.

Concert Ticket, though not of much use in India, alerts you if artistes in your library are playing in your city or region. It also allows you to book tickets for the concerts at the click of a link. Scrobbling, on the other hand, is a Twitter-like function that allows you to discuss and share tracks with friends. There are related add-ons that get you the lyrics of a certain track, suggest songs you are likely to like and even one that gives a 3D effect to you album. MashTape, meanwhile, helps you discover Flickr photos, YouTube videos, biographies, Google news (and more) for artistes.

The player does tend to hang up a bit at times, so it’s better to avoid opening too many tabs on the browser. But that is about it as far as negatives go. So go ahead, get yourself a Songbird.

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