March 9, 2006

New Democracy Player aggregates video podcasts

Author: Dmitri Popov

What happens if you take VLC player, add a pinch of XUL, and sprinkle a bit of RSS on top? You get Democracy Player, a new RSS aggregator geared towards managing video podcasts.

Actually, Democracy Player is not all that new: a Mac-only beta version previously known as DTV has been available for quite a while. But the Participatory Culture Foundation has now renamed and released a version of the software for both Mac OS X and Windows, and promises a Linux version in the near future.

Democracy Player allows you to subscribe to video podcasts, and it includes several features that make managing video feeds more convenient. For starters, the player incorporates a Channel Guide, providing a categorized list of available video podcasts. You can subscribe to the desired channel with a single mouse click. The downloaded videos are listed in the My Collection section, where you can view them. You can also search downloaded videos and set expiration periods to purge files after a specified period of time. The Channel Guide content is compiled by the Participatory Culture people, and is open to submissions.

Democracy Player is XUL-based, which explains its striking similarity to Songbird, a new Web audio player that is also based on the Mozilla toolkit. Since Democracy Player is based on the VLC player, it supports a wide range of formats, and will play virtually any type of content you throw at it.

Unfortunately, the current release of the player is buggy, and I mean buggy. The player crashes a lot, especially when downloading videos. Sometimes the download progress bar freezes halfway through, though the player continues to download the video, and the Active Downloads counter often displays the wrong number or no downloads at all. One can only hope that the developers live up to the "release early, update often" principle and fix some of the most annoying bugs soon.

Democracy Player is not quite there yet, but it shows a lot of promise. It's definitely one to watch.

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