The reformation of the RealPlayer

RealPlayer — the first (or one of the first) rich media players from the earliest days of the web — has undergone some zigs and zags in its business model over the past decade that I won’t try to summarize. But we all know that eventually, somewhere, there’s a video clip that demands a download from RealNetworks, and in the past that was one of the worst experiences in web plug-ins, taking over your system, demanding emails, trying to trick one into a premium upgrade …. in short, once you downloaded a Real player you started to see tons of popup crap and other badness. SuperPass, Gold Edition, Rhapsody … they all have their merits I’m sure, but there was an irritation to the Real download process that left a bad taste.
Not anymore. I don’t know what happened to management, maybe someone listened to the users, but the upsell crap, the confusing medly of paid media come-ons and personal information trickery has vanished with RealPlayer Version 11.
But here’s the thing. I installed the latest version of the player last week and answered yes to a prompt to embed what I can best describe as Snag-It for video (see the “Download This Video” tab on the HP ad below). Now I have the capability to watch a video and download it locally. This is a big deal for me, especially in capturing flash (.flv) video ads to show our CMO and my team as examples of what the competition or other advertisers are doing. Some people may shrug and say, hey there’s a ton of stuff to do that already, but I didn’t know I needed it until Real gave it to me. Further, once I play the clip locally in the RealPlayer I have the option to share it with a friend, helping me alert people to a clip I want them to pay attention to.

So, wow, all of a sudden Real went from a bad thing to a good thing. Big respect to Rob Glaser for turning an annoyance into a much better product. My only suggestion is to make it more intuitive to rename clips — right now they inherit the title tag from the site they were drawn from.