Songbird comes from a software company called Pioneers of the Inevitable. The application works the same way as Firefox. Pioneers of the Inevitable develops and continually works on the core application while people around the globe build add-ons for the app. These add-ons are then published to the Songbird website and easily installed through the Songbird interface. It really doesn't get any easier than this to make an application customized to your needs. Here is a taste of some current add-ons available right now.
MediaFlow - This add-on creates a view virtually identical to the iTunes Cover Flow. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/238
Mac Remote Control Support - Enables the use of the standard Apple remote control. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/1291
iPod Device Support - Self explanatory. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/12
Google Search - Since Songbird ha a built-in web browser you can use this Google search add-on to access items like album art much quicker. No more flipping back and forth between applications. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/1254
Vinyl Album Art - Changes album art to a vinyl graphic. Not sure this is the most user friendly type of add-on, but some people may need this one to bring back the feel of vinyl. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/1358
In a move that is antithetical to the Apple way of doing business Pioneers of the Inevitable has published the application roadmap for all to see. This is nothing new for open source software, but audiophile are used to guessing what will happen to the next version .0001 of iTunes. We like our audio components to sound transparent and it is nice to have transparent software development.
One big pitfall with Songbird is that it does not support CD ripping. Yes, you heard that right not CD ripping. According to the roadmap this functionality is scheduled to be available in the April 2009 release of Songbird. Watching folder and fetching album art should be here with the February 2009 release.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article I believe Songbird has the greatest potential of any playback application available today. If there is something missing from iTunes that you're dying to have or you've been annoyed with since day one feel free to let Pioneers of the Inevitable know about this. Songbird is backed by some of the biggest venture capital firms in the business and has some very talented people working on the application's core. In addition Songbird does not require a Ph.D. to use much of its functionality and obtain solid bit perfect sound. Like other open source applications Songbird is available for a 100% discount through the rest of its lifetime. Give it a shot.