Miro Makes Its Move into a Crowded Field

Miro, nee Democracy Player, released its version 1.0 Tuesday, officially leaving beta behind. The open source video subscription, download and viewing client from the Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF) hopes to be not just more open, but more popular than other online video services.

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The organization is reporting more than 200,000 downloads per month leading up to the launch. “We expect to have more users than Joost by January,” said PCF Executive Director Nicholas Reville in a statement. We’d be remiss to let a boast like that fly by; we’ll check back in January and let you know.

Our take: If Miro’s latest version proves as reliable as the open source Video LAN Client (VLC), if it adds broad portable device support, if it somehow enables easy subscription from within embeds, and if it otherwise becomes the recommended client alternative to installed apps like iTunes/QuickTime and Windows Media Player by IT professionals across America, it’s got a shot at the big time.

For now, Miro uses the popular BitTorrent protocol for downloading and sharing content, and supports whatever video formats VLC can handle — which is almost anything without DRM, in my experience. The interface is familiar to any iTunes user, and the directory of “channels” indexed by the PCF has grown to 2,700 shows. I’m happy to be able to plug MeFeedia’s NaVloPoMo feed (that’s National Vlog Posting Month to you) into Miro’s channels (not to mention my OPML file), but I’m a fringe case.

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While the Democracy Player was an early NewTeeVee favorite, glitchy playback and crashes kept us from using it heavily (or recommending it) for reasons beyond its open platform rhetoric and underdog status. Now it’s competing in a crowded field, where Joost is an early favorite, but Babelgum and Veoh are also well-funded, and clients like the new Tubular are coming out all the time.

Miro and the Participatory Culture Foundation’s hopes seem to lie in becoming the Firefox of online video (and it’s more than a coincidence; Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, has provided funding and advising to PCF). The problem is, Firefox is the Firefox of online video, since watching video in-browser is the norm on laptops and desktops in my experience (and Miro doesn’t seem to offer any features related to portable devices). I worry that Miro will instead become the Google Reader of online video — a great, incredibly useful application without mainstream traction.

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