September 28, 2015

Exclusive Interview: Emby Founder Luke Pulverenti

Emby-logoRecently, I wrote a tutorial on Emby, a media server that allows users to stream their own media across devices. What attracted me to Emby was that it's a fully open source project, compared to Plex which I heavily use. To learn more about the Emby project (formerly known as Media Browser), I reached out to Emby founder Luke Pulverenti. Here, he talks about choosing an open source development approach and about the Emby project’s goals for the future.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you do and where you live?

I live in New England, and as of earlier this year I work full-time on Emby. Before that I worked in the healthcare software industry and also for other startups.

When did you become interested in open source?

Before Emby, I had limited open source experience. I submitted small bug fixes here and there to different projects that I took an interest in. The Media Browser project was always fully open source, and with the re-branding to Emby we felt that was the best way for the project to continue moving forward.

What was the goal behind starting Emby?

Emby has been around since 2008, and was formerly known as Media Browser. Media Browser was a plugin for Windows Media Center and had a very distinct reputation. It did not have the feature set of other products such as Xbmc, but it had the best presentation around, and when you wanted to show off your setup, you did it with Media Browser.

luke-EmbyI was just an ordinary Media Browser user, and when Windows 8 was released without Windows Media Center, the team had a decision to make. Either evolve or become irrelevant as Windows Media Center fades away. That's when I approached ebr (who was then the main developer responsible for Media Browser) about re-inventing the product with a client-server architecture that would give us a platform to become a true media server solution for both local and remote content. So, this decision was based primarily on continuing the project we love and finding a way for it to continue to thrive.

Is Emby server fully open source? If yes, what license are you using and why did you choose it to make open source?

Emby Server is fully open source under GPL V2.0. Anyone can run from source and be up and running in a matter of minutes. It's important to mention though that our goal is to produce the best experience we possibly can. If an agreement with a potential partner were to require us to make certain modules closed source, then we would not hesitate to do that. These situations are reserved for standalone, optional features and will not prevent running the core server from source.

Is Emby a company with full-time employees, or is it a part-time project that you manage?

Yes, Emby is an LLC, and there is a very small number of us working full-time. The project has grown to the point where it needs full-time attention in order to be able to support users and be competitive with other products.

What infrastructure do you use for publishing the source code and what infrastructure are you using to offer compiled binaries?

Our source code is on GitHub, along with documented build scripts for Windows and Linux. Several of the Linux packages are using the Open Build Service, while others are maintained by volunteering community members. We are currently working on getting packages released for QNAP, Synology, and other NAS devices.

I found it strange that Emby is not available for openSUSE, what’s the reason?

We'd like to be on every distribution that we possibly can. It is only a matter of time and resources. In the meantime, until there is a dedicated openSUSE package, the Docker installation is a great alternative.

The Emby Connect service is similar to Plex Pass. What are the additional features users can get?

Emby Connect is a completely free service that makes it easy to sign into your apps when away from home and manage connections to multiple servers.

Normally, signing into a server requires three pieces of information -- the server IP address, along with a username and password. With Emby Connect, you no longer need to know a server's IP address in order to connect.

How do you fund the development?

We have subscription services that we call the Emby Supporter membership. We use these for bonus features that we think users will find value in purchasing. They help fund the project and allow us to compete with other products.

What’s your long-term goal with Emby? Where do you want to see it?

Our goal is to continue to evolve with the industry and become the best way to consume and manage personal media. As new technologies emerge, we want our users to be confident that we're going to be there bringing them the integration they're looking for. In 2015, cloud services and storage have become more affordable for mainstream users. In 2016, I expect they're going to really begin affecting the way we use apps on a daily basis, and Emby will be there to help you take advantage of it. Conversely, as client devices continue to become more powerful, so too will the in-app experiences.

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