I love the name of both the group producing this software and the software itself. I talked about Participatory Culture before on my podcast a long time ago when they brought out an early version of their BitTorrent based broadcasting software Broadcast Machine. Now they’ve managed to get out early versions of their client software for the Mac and Windows. It is named Democracy Player and I think that’s just great.
Having played around with it for a while, here’s what I can tell you about it:
- The interface is easy enough for anyone to use and it comes pre-loaded with a set of channels so you can anticipate that there will be more channels in the future and a much better selection as well. It will never hit podcasting levels of popularity (i.e. 10,000 channels in less than 18 months) simply because it is so much more difficult to produce video than it is audio, but channels could easily number in the hundreds by the end of 2007.
- Their website is channeling Firefox and their software interface is channeling iTunes. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just right.
- They did a lot of things right. They understand that the costs of distributing video would make it completely impracticle and even setting up servers to deliver a lot of content at high speed is daunting so they’ve relied on BitTorrent to handle that from day one. Apple should have done the same thing with their iTunes client and there wouldn’t be a single podcaster out there worrying whether it was going to cost them more than they could afford for bandwidth or straining under an audience that keeps getting bigger.
- Participatory Culture has based everything around RSS channels just like in podcasting but made sure that you’ve got a server that is easy to use to publish your video channels via Bittorrent and a client that can receive them. Just as with podcasting you don’t have to use their server or their client but can instead mix and match. Talk to any server that can handle Bittorrent downloads and RSS with the client or vice versa, serve up your channels to any client that can work with RSS and Bittorrent. They’ve just provided an easy turnkey solution.
- Their Mac client software was out before the Windows version so it may be more stable. Nevertheless, I used the Windows version to browse various channels, pick videos to download, download them, and watch them all from within the Democracy Player.
- I’ve had problems with it crashing repeatedly and with it being very unresponsive to me wanting to change to look at a channel after I start playing a video and I decide I don’t want to watch it all the way to the end. By very unresponsive I mean 30 seconds to a minute of delay before taking action on a click.
- The video controls at the bottom of the screen on the Windows version do not appear to update and only sometimes control the video functions.
If you want an early look at a tool that is going to be as indespensible as iTunes has become for many people, download this and start playing with it.