a Real Alternative?
January 8, 2004
One of the more interesting Windows applications to pop up in the past few months is Real Alternative, which you can check out at this rather disorganized page. (It's linked near the bottom.)
Real Alternative is fascinating not because of its features, as it's really a rather simple media player and codec combination. But what's striking is what the player represents. Real Alternative is based on Real Networks' Helix platform, an open source implementation of the RealPlayer everyone loves to hate. Since the download link for the free Real Player or RealOne Player has historically been so difficult to find, and since those lucky few who managed to ferret out the application were rewarded with an unstable, ad-filled, annoying bit of bloatware, some crafty hackers took it upon themselves to create, well, an alternative.
In addition to causing much less suffering than Real's official players, the Alternative program doesn't come burdened with skins or visualizations or any of the other idiocy that seems to plague so many applications, especially media players.
It seems to me that this is a testament to how the market adapts to shoddy software. Real has changed their official stance somewhat, focusing more on subscriptions and download sales, making the free player easier to find on their homepage now that it could potentially be a source of revenue from people paying to download tracks. But in the interim their users got sick of fighting to watch content and are creating viable options for those who aren't willing to sacrifice their overall computing experience for the privilege of watching Real-encoded content.
Go give Real Alternative a try. There's no spyware, the codecs seem to be legit, coming from the Helix project, and you don't get a popup ad asking you to subscribe to Real's services every day. Mr. Glaser, pay attention to the lessons this is teaching you about your company's applications.
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