RealPlayer sucks. Not the actual technology, which for a long time had a complete lock on audio and video streaming over the internet, and of which I used to be a happy consumer, but two things happened to erode Reals dominance. The first is that Microsoft saw a market that they didn't have 99% market share in and decided to start leveraging their monopoly on the desktop to try to squeeze out Real. This alone is fascinating since yet again MS is going after a market where the client is given away for free, just like they did with the browser market. My prediction is that in the end they will succeed in displacing Real, replacing RealPlayer with at best a mediocre client, then once the battle is won they will realize they have a monopoly that is useless. They will have a monopoly on audio/video players that is completely unleveragable, just like the browser. Congratulations, you have a 90% market share in web browsers, care to explain how you're going to monetize that? After realizing that they'll abandon all new development and leave customers in the lurch with a poor, unmaintained client and no competition.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about, what I really wanted to focus on is the other reason that Real will go out of business.

The idea behind RealPlayer is to give away the client for free in the hope of selling server software for serving up the content. Note that this is the same model that Netscape had. Somewhere along the way Real looked at all those downloads of the free player and got greedy, first by offering a "Premium" player for pay, then by going to what will certainly go down in history as the most agressive obfuscation and upsell campaign in history. The process to download and install the free RealPlayer is now an exercise in stealth (see if you can actually find the free version to download) and tedium (now unckeck all these boxes to avoid being spammed, don't forget to scroll down the page). Then, and only then, if you actually get past the install, manage to avoid getting 15 links splattered across your desktop, start menu and who knows where else, then you get ...drumroll... a whole new source of pop-ups! Everytime you start the program it, by default, drops onto a page that is basically an advertisement for Real, and then again when you quit it pops up an ad. All of this is annoying, annoying, annoying, and I'm not the only one to feel that way, turns out the folks at CarTalk got so many complaints that they dropped RealPlayer.

Real will go out of business or at the very least be driven to be a marginal player with a meager market share. They'll point to Microsoft as the source of all their woes when in fact it was their own greed and shortsightedness that will put them under. I've seen this show before, I know how it ends.

The BBC got so many complaints, they made a deal with Real, and now you an download a spam & popup free version at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/audiohelp.shtml?focuswin

Posted by Eric Vitiello on 2004-04-07

It took me quite a bit of looking, but I eventually found some codecs for realplayer.  Media Player Classic is now perfectly happy playing .ra and .ram streams.

No popups, no adds, no spam, no ugly ui.

Bliss.

Posted by Beowolf on 2004-04-07

There's a good series of articles on this starting at: http://jogin.com/weblog/archives/2004/02/29/real_obnoxious.  He apparently got to talk to some former Real Networks employees who dished the dirt.  Wired also did a story recently
http://www.wired.com/news/digiwood/0,1412,62617,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

It's true, MS is a formidable enough competitor that you don't need to help them.  Real's CEO is a former MS employee, you'd think he'd know that.

Posted by Gordon Weakliem on 2004-04-07

MS can make money the same way Real does - on the server side. Hardly useless having a monopoly on the client side; everyone has to buy your server software (until the EU steps in...)

The link you posted to CarTalk shows that they have changed their minds and are now using Real again.

I hate Real, but I found the free version quite easy to download. It's not nearly as invasive as it was in the past (still not perfect though).

I hate WMP too, so I'm not in a happy place;)

Posted by TeaDrinker on 2004-04-07

Microsoft will monetize their player strategy the same way Apple is monetizing iTunes. Microsoft will be entering the portable player and download-for-a-fee market, and media player dominance is a cornerstone peice to making that strategy work. Apple has shown the way for easy-to-use, vertically integrated music distribution. Indeed, their strategy to create the tools that artists and recording studios use, all the way to the player that people use to listen to that music points to a level of influence (control is too strong a word) that I'm sure Microsoft is quite envious of.

Will they start charging for Media Player directly? No. They're giving away the razor so they can sell the blades.

As for Real, I agree that their offensive tactics will drive people away from their player without any help from Microsoft. I'd be interested to see if there has been a study to determine if the annoyanceware strategy has a net positive value. Irritating potential customers seems like a bad idea to me, but then again, people buy stuff from spammers, so applying rational thought to this problem may be inappropriate.

Posted by Thomas Tongue on 2004-04-08

The only reason companies choose Real or Windows Media formats is because of DRM (digital rights management). The problem is that the creators of free standards for audio such as Ogg Vorbis probably oppose the closed nature of DRM-protected streams as much as they oppose the technology itself being closed-source or patented.

Posted by Lenny Domnitser on 2004-04-08

It's true, the spam that RealPlayer incorporates into their player makes it a useless piece of crap.  Windows Media Player has come a long way since the drab gray colored CD player.  But, I've always been a huge fan of WinAmp.  Their software beats the rest hands down.  They do offer a PRO version of their software, but it just adds the functionality of Nero or any other CD burning/ripping utility.

Why does WinAmp beat the competition?  Here's some reasons:
no popup ads
fast & easy installation
some of the best skins I've ever seen
extremely easy to use Internet Radio and TV in their media library
customizable to your hearts content

I'll continue to use it as long as it's around provided they don't mimic RealPlayer's obnoxiousness.

Posted by Jason on 2004-04-14

Hey all, i was just looking for a way to play ra's again, a few years ago real player was about the only game in town and came ra ready, there is much ra content still out there, lol, i just dl'ed some only to find that real player dun play ra's without a plugin that refuses to dl, so if i want to hear these ra's i have to back door through the bbc version, thanks for link.

dennis.

Posted by Dennis Hagans on 2004-04-28

Yeah!

Posted by Real Player sucks on 2004-05-06