Democracy Player Is Now Miro; Opens Eyes to Online Video

Update 4:26 PDT Tuesday: After some delays today, Miro is now live.

Miro, the desktop internet TV aggregator formerly known as the Democracy Player, is launching today, having spent a year and a half refining its features. I, for one, am welcoming it with open arms.

A long-time Democracy user, I had grown fed up with all the prompts to download a new update to the beta (which would then kill all my preferences and playlists) and decided to sit a few rounds out until the official release. But in the meantime, I’ve found myself falling behind on web video shows, especially the series that keep on plugging but aren’t gripping enough to keep me refreshing the page waiting for a new episode. The folks at the Participatory Culture Foundation are still unparalleled in their dedication to a receptacle for all your subscribable, downloadable web video.

screenshot6-1.jpegThe near-final Miro build I’ve played with for the last three days is easy to use. Once you’ve got your favorites all queued up you can sit back and enjoy full-screen internet TV. My biggest complaint is about search and discovery — it’s limited to indexes of video-sharing sites from YouTube and the like. What about web-wide video search from someone like Truveo? The big advantage of Miro over something like Joost is users don’t have to depend on a finite programming guide — in addition to the 1,500 channels Miro points to in its frustratingly slow-to-load guide, people can create their own.

“Last I checked, [major video search providers] didn’t provide good video RSS feeds for search results, which is how we do searching right now,” explained Worcester, Massachusetts-based PCF’s Nicholas Reville over email. However, he suggested a future partnership with one such search service could provide revenue, similar to the way Google pays Mozilla for default search boxes in the chrome of its Firefox browser. For the meantime, PCF, which is a non-profit organization, actually takes its money from Mozilla, through a $100,000 grant.

Miro isn’t particularly polished — despite all the improvements I’m never been able to forget I’m not using iTunes — but it doesn’t crash so much anymore, it’s open-source, and its developers are extremely receptive to community feedback. VeohTV (invites here; be warned, it’s Windows-only) is probably the closest competition.

screenshot7-1.jpegI’ve tried web-based video aggregators from people like vod:pod (which by the way got funding), but the quality, navigability, and TV-likeness of a desktop player wins out for now. (However, I don’t see why Google Reader, which is probably the best equipped to do this on the web, doesn’t go ahead and partition off a video section.)

Reville said Miro has been downloaded 1 million times in the past year (though I wonder how many of those were racked up per machine!). He pointed to an increased emphasis on community on the Get Miro site, with a $5 per month members club and many opportunities to help out with planning, publicity, translation, coding, and testing. Let us know if you’re a convert or have a favorite alternative; we video-obsessed people could all use a little help getting access to the good stuff.

Note: Regarding the timing of the software release, “It should be happening in the morning, barring any last-minute issues,” according to Reville.

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