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What’s Next for Democracy Player?

It’s been a year since the first official release of the Democracy player and podcast client, and the Democracy team is celebrating this birthday with the release of version 0.95. So what’s new, what’s coming up, and when will we see Democracy version 1.0? I checked in with Democracy co-creator Nicholas Reville to find out the scoop.

Democracy is an open source, multi-platform podcast client with integrated video player, program guide and Bittorrent support. Wired magazine called the client “the future of net video” back in May 2006. The present of net video still seems to be closely tied to YouTube and iTunes though, leaving little attention for an outsider like Democracy. So how does one compete with the likes of YouTube?

With Flash support, for one thing. The new version of Democracy supports the download and playback of Flash videos right off of YouTube. Users can search the site from within their client. Even subscribing to a channel is possible, effectively turning YouTube into a giant repository of Flash-based video podcasts, with new episodes getting downloaded onto your hard disk as they become available.

Reville doesn’t see YouTube as a main competitor to Democracy though: “We’re really offering a much different type of experience that is better suited to longer-format video and high quality videos.” Think episodic video podcasts – a space that has so far been dominated by iTunes. “I don’t think Apple has done a great job with video,” says Reville. (However, that hasn’t stopped people from downloading lots of it from iTunes already.)

So far this hasn’t really translated into market share, but interest seems to be growing. Reville says Democracy has seen almost 1 million downloads over the last 12 months, with numbers peaking this week at 20,000 daily downloads with the release of version 0.95.

He sees content discovery as one of the main priorities for the build up to version 1.0, which is scheduled to come out in about three months. The newly released version 0.95 already features improved support for third-party aggregation platforms. Users can submit videos to, Digg and Reddit from within the client.

The team is also working on a major revamp of the internal Democracy program guide, with beta testing for the new guide beginning this week. Says Reville: “We need to do a better job helping people find the best channels.”

All of this is part of a bigger plan to literally democratize television, one video podcast at a time. Reville and his coworkers set up a nonprofit structured after the model of the Mozilla foundation to be free from the pressure a startup in this space has to deal with and focus on their long-term strategy. Time will tell if their plan is gonna work out. “It’s definitely a challenge to get people to download a new type of application,” admits Reville. “We’ll see how we do in the mainstream audience once we hit 1.0.”

11 Responses to “What’s Next for Democracy Player?”

  1. Well… I think that this could work. I definitely like it so far except for those problems I mentioned before. This could be a standard framework for bringing tv to the internet. Not just youtube-esque user produced content and mediocre public access type production,, but also network television. Networks could set up an rss feed with the latest episodes of their shows and we could use demeocracy to download and view it. Not that I think they actually will anytime soon, because they’re a bit short sighted in their view that putting things on the internet might downgrade profits. But it’s not extremely far-fetched. NBC currently has a lot of their full shows online, albeit restricted to US IPs and only the most recent episodes, but it shows that they’re moving in that direction.

    Either way, I think the fact that they’re centralizing online video downloads to some extent is good enough.

    This really turned into a bit of a rant. Didn’t mean to do that. I guess we’ll see what happens in the future with these guys though.

  2. Oh, I’m sure there will be improvements and that it’s better now than when I downloaded it a while back. What I’m saying is that, based on what they say and the decisions they’ve made so far, I don’t think these guys will end up going anywhere. I think they’re largely wasting their own and other people’s time, as it will take different ideas and people to get this done right.

  3. @ Ajay… I wouldn’t say this project is going nowhere. I downloaded the latest version about a week ago (never previously downloaded it) and it shows great potential to be the itunes for video (which itunes hasn’t done, even though it’s tried). It just needs to work out small quirks.

    1. Allow easy addition of multiple videos already on your local machine to the playlist. The video player for this thing can actually play xvid, divx and the like, but right now the only way to add these files to the playlist is one at a time through the “open file” dialogue.

    2. Allow the user to play around with the settings for the bittorrent client. Bittorrent is great, but it’s also a bandwidth hog. Personally, my connection isn’t slow, but it also isn’t knock your socks off quick either so I always have to limit upload and download speeds along with a couple other tweaks to get my bittorrent client to work and for me to browse the internet without a big hit to the speed. The only thing that it allows you to do is limit upload speed when you’re not idle.

    3. They need to become more compatible with the various rss feed standards o ut there. This is really a minor encumbrance as it is compatible with a lot of feeds, but there were a few that I couldn’t get to work. Notably those from comedy central.

    But it’s a beta. Version 1 hasn’t come out yet. And I’m sure that they’ll do these in addition to a lot of other things that I haven’t even thought of.

  4. 1 million downloads sounds like a lot until you divide by 8 (the number of releases in the last year). It’s the same group of people downloading the same stuff.

    1 million wow!

    125K, oh…

  5. These guys are pretty clueless, this project will go nowhere. The only relevance of this project is that practically anybody can now fund something on a small budget. That allows a lot of innovation to come from a lot of different places but it’s not going to be from these guys.