Tag Archives: Real Player

Why Real Player Is Really, Really Unpleasant

Interesting post, and subsequent discussion, at Tomas Jogin’s blog, on the Real Player — which does streaming audio and video, and was once the bee’s knees.

Now it ain’t so, mainly because of its very invasive way of installing itself on your computer, and then being very, very hard to get rid of. I’ve hated the way it throws little messages at you and installs a little reminder program called, of all things, TkBell.exe, in your start-up queue, if you ever make the mistake of launching it.

But what’s most interesting are the responses from some anonymous folk inside the company. As an outsider you tend to think a software company wants to win over users, not upset them, but while that’s true, not everyone in the company may agree on how to do that. So you end up with developers trying to create great products, marketing folk trying to grab eyeballs — or hits, or subscriptions, or whatever — and the management, who want to get their IPO and mansions. The result: A once great program, trampled by people who have no idea how they’re alienating folk to not only their product, but the Internet, software, music, and anything with the word ‘Real’ before it (with the possible exception of Madrid.)

That’s a good lesson for all of us. I guess a lot of us seem to see corporations as either cool or evil. I have renewed respect for those cool people doing their best in organisations dominated by greedy idiots who probably never have, themselves, had to install the products they sell.

Goodbye To The Browser?

Here’s some more interesting end-of-year stuff from Nielsen//NetRatings: a report issued today (PDF file) says that three out of every four home and work Internet users access the Internet using a non-browser based Internet application, particularly media players, instant messengers and file sharing applications. “With 76 percent of Web surfers using Internet applications, functionality has grown beyond the browser to become a fundamental piece of the overall desktop,” said Abha Bhagat, senior analyst Nielsen//NetRatings. “It’s become harder to distinguish when you’re on the Internet, blurring the lines between what’s sitting on the desktop and what’s coming from the World Wide Web.”

According to the report, the top five applications are Windows Media Player, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger Service and Real Player. Of these top five applications, Windows Media has the largest active user reach at 34 percent. AOL Instant Messenger was next at 20 percent, followed by Real Player also at 20 percent, MSN Messenger Service at 19 percent and Yahoo! Messenger Service, which reaches 12 percent of the active user base.

Interesting. But what does it actually tell us? First off, we shouldn’t get confused by the data. This doesn’t mean that folks are eschewing the browser, just that a lot of other programs are also connecting to the Internet (where is e-mail in all this?). Second, if Real Networks and MSN Messenger are anything to go by, a lot of these programs access the Internet without the user doing anything (or even knowing about it) so does this actually count? Lastly, there’s been plenty written already about how Microsoft is moving past the browser to incorporate similar functionality into its Office and other products — say Microsoft Word 2003’s Research Pane, for example — so it’s clear the big boys would have us move to more proprietary, locked-in environments, which all of the top five applications have in common. We’re not so much witnessing a demographic change as a deliberate shove by the main players.

My wish list? I’d like to see all of these players stop hoodwinking the end-user by loading their programs into the start-up queue automatically (you know who you are). It’s deliberately misleading (read: sleazy), it hogs resources and it skews data like Nielsen’s. I’d also like to see AOL, MSN and Yahoo all agree to share their instant messaging lists so folk like me don’t have to use great alternatives like Trillian to pull together our disparate buddy networks (Trillian will lump all your different Instant Messaging accounts into one easy to view window, minus all the ads and annoying pop-ups).

I see no danger in the browser gradually being phased out for plenty of web-related tasks. But, if the Internet has really become ‘part of the desktop’ let’s try to make it a place where ordinary folk can hang out without too much hassle.