Programming is a wonderful mix of art and science; source code is both a poem and a math problem. It should be as simple and elegant as it is functional and fast. This blog is about that (along with whatever else I feel like writing about).

Monday, May 01, 2006

Democracy - Television for the Internet Age

Last week I came across a rather new video player with an interesting twist: it is meant to be a platform for distributing internet-based television. Democracy's goal is to be a democratization of the media, allowing anyone with a video camera and an internet connection to put together their own channel, producing art, entertainment, or news.

Rather than simply playing videos downloaded elsewhere (this is, in fact, not possible in the current player, though I have been told that it is planned for the next release in mid-May), in Democracy you subscribe to channels and videos are downloaded automatically as they are made available. It is the work of a moment to begin watching in a window or in full screen mode. And as an added bonus, all downloaded videos play one after the other so your television experience is not interrupted by having to start the next video.

In an effort to curb hard drive use, Democracy has implemented an expiration system based on Tivo's, in that downloaded videos expire in 6 days (by default, though that number can be changed), unless they are explicitly saved for longer. And the website reminds you that you can always download expired videos again if you want to see them.

I have only used the program to a somewhat limited extent thus far, and have not fully explored the channel options. However, the content I have found is mostly good, and in one case is better than the options on television (Channel Frederator). I am certainly looking forward to the creation of new and interesting video content, and the distribution opportunities being made available by standards such as RSS and innovative new players such as Democracy.

While I don't think it has the potential to replace the networks, the ability for anyone to produce their own news should force the news networks to remain diligent and the ability for anyone to produce and publish their own shows should force the studios to remain creative. This democratization of the media, by putting the tools into the hands of the individual, can only be a good thing.

Democracy is open source, released under the GPL, and is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

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