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[wlug] What is democracy player?

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Ian McDonald ian.mcdonald@j...
Thu Sep 14 13:13:19 NZST 2006

Saw this today at and thought it is timely given SFD.

Democracy player 0.9
Last February, the Participatory Culture Foundation announced its
existence with the launch of the "Democracy" player, billed as "the
world's first comprehensive open source Internet TV system." Many
Linux users may be excused for not trying out the program at that
time; despite being a GPL-licensed program, Democracy had not been
ported to the Linux platform.

That situation has now changed; on September 11, Democracy 0.9 was
announced. It runs on Linux, and packages for Debian, Fedora Core,
Gentoo, and Ubuntu are provided; the source is available for everybody
else. Beyond the Linux port, this version promises a polished user
interface, a new playlist capability, Flash video support, and more.
Your editor clearly had no choice; a tool like this simply must be
tried out.

Unfortunately, the Democracy experience is still rather spotty at
best. It requires the installation of a number of proprietary codecs
(which is not particularly surprising, once one thinks about it - the
Democracy developers will have no magic solutions there). The system
can be sluggish to respond, and your editor never was able to get it
to display a video in its own window. It also would not explain why it
failed to display anything, so there was little to be done about it.

But your editor was able to get far enough to realize one important
thing: video display is not really what Democracy is about in the
first place. This tool is really a sort of video feed aggregator for
free video content; it has all the required features around sorting
feeds into categories, collecting votes for interesting videos, using
BitTorrent to download videos in a provider-friendly way, and more.
There is also significant support for people who want to create their
own video feeds.

What Democracy and its supporting foundation are trying to do is to
get as many people as possible into the business of creating and
distributing interesting content. The term "Internet TV" is somewhat
off the mark - Democracy will suit couch potatoes just fine, but its
real purpose is to get them off their couches and participating in the
process. It is trying to create a world where video content is free,
universal, and compelling - so it has tools for finding and
distributing videos but a distinct lack of DRM support.

This is an important goal - television is too important to leave to
the TV companies. If the Democracy system can help to bring more free
content into existence, it will have done good thing. Some progress in
that direction has been made: there are, it is said, some 600 channels
of free content available now, and, doubtless, more to come. The
current code has real promise; it looks like a capable system for
discovering, distributing, and managing interesting video content. If
they can get past the remaining troublesome issues, the Democracy
hackers will have created a valuable tool indeed.

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