How Real Lost Its Way


Rob Glaser was busy building bowling alleys and buying shiny baubles when he should have been obsessing over his company, Real, which started out as the king of streaming media, but lost its way and handed over the lead to the likes of Microsoft and lately to Apple. Jeff Louella tells a poignant story from a user’s perspective. A story that reads more like a love affair gone wrong, ending in acrimony, recriminations and a few tears of frustration. As I read his post, I could not but help nodding my head in agreement.

The company that once revolutionized the internet, is now on its way to becoming a penny stock. I wish Real Networks well and want them to know that they have changed my life forever. And for that, I will always be grateful. But as of today, Real Player will be uninstalled from my computer until they rethink and again revolutionize their product.

He talked about botch decisions, and the greed which made them charge for everything on Real. Ironically, on a Mac, the Real experience is still better than Microsoft Media Player, and I still end up using Microsoft’s product. Because I feel confident that the product, despite Apple vs Microsoft skirmishes is going to be around for a while. Louella’s tome is an all-too familiar story of a start-up that once ruled the world, got arrogant and then slowly lost it all. Much like Netscape. (Let this be a reminder to all those who are current stock market darlings, for hubris, brings even greatest civilizations down!)


J Herskowitz

Of course the slippery slope is that the constant proliferation of new CODECs (e.g. Monkey, FLAC, etc.) creates an ongoing arms race for the media player providers. As soon as a new format or DRM scheme appears, than there is an opportunity for a new media player to pop up that really supports all video, image and audio formats. Can there every really “be only one”?


Greed, hubris and “Wiley E. Coyote” like intellect… that’s the Real story.


The Real client is one of those applications that I absolutely hate to install on my machine. It wants to take over everything, and they did a great job of hiding all the preferences needed to regain control of your machine. I think it is somewhat better behaved now than in the past, but I still equate Real with what amounts to spyware. Let that be a lesson to companies building clients.


First they were a software company. Then Microsoft came to town and started to kill that business.

So then they became a media company. Then they realized that, unlike cable, it was impossible to hold onto customers – that the customers would go where the content was and they were drawn into expensive battles for content.

Then Apple came along and showed that the real trick to making music work on the internet was integrated hardware and software with a heavy dose of marketing.

All the while, they were making their software worse and worse and worse. Here’s a good plan for Real: sell of your assets and return the money to the shareholders because clearly you’ve got no plan and no place to go.

Thomas Hirsch

Om — Again, a little extreme. Real may not be perfect, but it’s pretty good. So is Winamp, in my opinion. Also, Real has plenty of cash in the bank, so will not fold anytime soon. The share price has been rather stable, at around 5.00 to 7.00, for the past few years. Chart for RNWK —

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