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VLC has been downloaded over a billion times (videolan.org)
321 points by m_for_monkey on May 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

I cherish the VLC.app for iPad that was pulled from the AppStore! It's just great to copy a movie in the app folder and know it will play in VLC without any conversion, etc.

It's actually the reason we stopped taking the laptop while away for the weekend. I just put a movie on the iPad for VLC and we are good to go.

Edit: But the new VLC on OSX is horrible. Had to revert to the older version, mostly due to the way on-screen-display changed.

The new VLC really has regressed. It crashes for me now (I don't remember the last time it did before the latest update). Also, the audio delay for volume changes is multiple seconds instead of instant, and for some reason, the "repeat this video" is always on whenever I start it up. Plus, the interface is ugly.

Even with all that though, VLC has regressed from being an amazingly solid piece of software to being merely above average.

Unless you have a different bug, "the audio delay for volume changes is multiple seconds instead of instant" was fixed in version 2.0.1 along with several other issues.

The audio delay issue persists for me in version 2.0.1 like the parent commenter. Among other issues is an increase in random crashing. The new interface isn't particularly inviting, either. Reading through the other comments here has caused me to revert to the older version with which I was never unhappy with.

I also see it "rebuilding font cache" on every fresh start. Is anyone else seeing that? Very annoying.

If you download the latest build this problem was fixed for me. http://nightlies.videolan.org/build/macosx-intel/?C=M;O=D

Yea, I get that on any 720p + movie. Basically any mkv that may have subtitle support.

I've lost count of the number of times I've gone to click play on the new OSX version of VLC and accidentally clicked forward or backward, completely losing my place in the video I was watching as it skips to another. Horrible UI.

Try hosting your video files on a Plex media server paired with the Plex iOS app.

No need to copy files to the iPad, Plex streaming works great even over 3G. You can register your server with myPlex then sign on Plex clients to make getting to your video collection super easy.

Custom video categories are fantastic for keeping track of programming screencasts. I just setup my Plex with Peepcode, Destroy All Software, and Railscasts categories and am very pleased with the setup. If I start watching a video on the Roku box on my TV, I can pick up where I left off on the iPad or my iPhone whether I'm at home or not.

That doesn't really solve for the parent's use-case of

> It's actually the reason we stopped taking the laptop while away for the weekend. I just put a movie on the iPad for VLC and we are good to go.

though. You'd need to bring something to run Plex on.

Plex runs on a computer at home. You then stream that computer's media over the Internet on the iPad/iPhone using the Plex app. To make things super-easy you can register your home Plex server on myPlex and sign into it using myPlex on the iPad/iPhone.

Bam! No need to bring a computer OR move files to the device. You can even stream over 3G with pretty decent quality.

I think the previous poster understood the technical details and was implying that internet access is not always there. Also a lot of people have limited mobile quotas so wouldn't want to use their 3G connection for streaming something.

Some people go where there is no 3G/WiFi coverage. Sometimes it's also financially not feasible to do this (think roaming costs).

Example - a ferry trip from UK to France. No 3G for about 1.5hrs, or in other words - no 3G for a average length movie.

Try a month in Japan. Not even the same basebands. You want Internet? Get yourself a new device my friend!

That works so well on an airplane without wifi, or a tent in a valley in the wilderness :)

> That works so well [in] a tent in a valley in the wilderness

Much like a laptop.

This isn't going to work at all on most airplanes.

It's a nice idea, but it's not really going to work when you're on the move with spotty phone coverage (let alone on a plane). A solution involving local storage is a hundred times better.

Or you can use AirVideo. It converts while it streams or you can have it just do the conversion and dump it in iTunes so it will sync to the ipad automatically for offline usage.

Sure, but then you'll have to use up precious gigabytes for video storage. Via plex I have streaming access to my entire video library.

Dude it's 2012...gigabytes haven't been precious for over a decade.

Neither has bandwidth. :-)

Only 3 GBP / MB when roaming. Remotely viewing a movie with a high-res encoding might only cost approximately the same as a car.

Why don't you just buy a local pre-paid SIM? Though I guess most of the time I'm travelling I'm on vacation, so don't need to be reachable on the usual number. That might be an issue if you're on a delegation.

That's fine in theory, but you have to find a reasonable deal, find a shop to purchase it in, familiarize yourself with how to charge it up, and all in the time you spend in that country. I've found it burns at least half a day - usually not worth it. Most of my leisure travelling is motorbike touring, and I may spend each night in a different country, or cross borders several times a day (mountains with interesting roads are frequently on borders).

If my travel was simpler, sure, it's somewhat workable, and I do have e.g. a German SIM. But it's usually better to just rely on hotel wifi, cached maps on phones, offline GPS on bikes, etc.

When travelling it often is. Mobile data rates are still prohibitively high in most places and wifi services have low caps.

Only if you are at 'home'. If I where to use 3G on my phone when traveling in the US, I'd pay $17/MB! Even a 3 hour drive from my house (a trip a regularly make) will put me in a new country and I'm paying $7 for the first 50MB and then $3/pr additional MB. That makes watching movies kind of expensive.

While offline?

Not so much. If you're going to need to view video away from data service or WiFi then, yeah, you have no choice but local storage.

Try MPlayerX for OSX, I prefer it over the new VLC.

I tried MPlayer OSX once, and found that it turned my mac's volume up to max everytime I played a video. Sorry guys, endangering my audio equipment is terminally bad QA in my book. No thanks.

If OSX is anything like other OS's, you have to turn down the volume through OSX, not mplayer. mplayer's volume control is a way to "fine tune" the system volume. It sounds like your system volume is set high to begin with. Lower it. Then launch mplayer.

I would tell you how but I don't use OSX. Surely someone else can tell you, or you could learn yourself. It's worth learning how to use mplayer, if you are serious about audio.

Actually, it turn(ed) the system volume all the way up.

But mplayer (command line) itself is awesome. It's the only thing I use on Linux.

VLC is open source right? It would be nice if they put up the source for the iPad app so at least developers could make a build for themselves.

Seems that they do http://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-ios.html unless it's a different iOS version of VLC than the one on the app store that was removed.

I'm debating buying an iPad and not being able to play all media formats is a big one. Can I drag mkv 720p files to my iPad and will VLC play them if I can get it installed via above? Also hows the battery life if trying to play a 720p or 1080p file?

FWIW my Android Transformer plays everything using MX player. There's a seperate install for the codecs, but its easy and painless. All in the android play store. No sideloading needed.

Perfect! Thank you for finding that! I skimmed their site but obviously not deep enough.

How would this help? (And I'm actually asking, not disputing.)

I don't have an iPad. Does Apple allow you to load your own app (as in an app you write or at least compile for yourself) onto your own iPad, or do you have to load everything through the store, which requires getting Apple's approval?

If you can't directly load your own app (which is my, perhaps mistaken, impression), how would having the source help? If you can, then that sounds like a potential solution.

Yes you can run your own code. Otherwise development would be very difficult, because with every small tweak you would have to get the code approved by Apple.

Not to mention VLC 2.0 it breaking the helper libs needed for DVD backup. The fix should have been automatic:


Sorry, but we aren't responsible for 3rd apps who try to use VLC's functionality in a completely unsupported way. Stuff within an application bundle is considered private and can change anytime.

Anyway, we informed the Handbrake devs about a month prior to VLC's 2.0 release, which is why they came up with a fix in their latest version shortly after.

There are only two programs I reversed a version update:

- Skype back to 2.8

- VLC back to 1.1.12

You mean that giant pill shaped toolbar ?

If so I hate it too. Raised a bug report for it being too large and one of the developers told me to buy a Retina MacĀ and that my 17inch MacBook Pro has too small a resolution.

In the public forums the devs have been very defensive about the UI redesign. I don't criticize easily, but it really does seem to stem from arrogance.

This will be fixed in VLC 2.0.2 :)

There's a lesson in how to make a product in VLC's success. It has a horribly unfriendly interface, and is certainly not pretty, but it doesn't matter - Whatever media file you point it at, you can feel confident that VLC will play it, without hassle.

The interface might not be the prettiest, but I don't think it's "horribly unfriendly". Can you contrast it with another player? I have been using vlc for a long time now and although I just switched to Mac OS, I can't say that I find other players on the platform particularly appealing. But again I think it depends on what you do it. In my case its usually either in minimized mode or playing a movie on full screen mode, making my contact with its UI very limited.

I couldn't find an easy way to disable subtitles completely for all videos I watched. After searching through the forums, the way to do that is to set the default subtitle track in the advanced Input/Codecs settings to a really high number, or you have to go to the advanced Video section and disable "sub pictures". WTF. It's those kind of things that drive me crazy. They do a lot of great things to make their system flexible, and then stop just short of making it usable. Instead of calling it "sub pictures", just call it "sub titles", and it'd be obvious to me how to disable sub titles. Or in the codecs section, have a checkbox to disable subtitles (which would set the default track to some high number for me). I would consider that "unfriendly".

I agree. It's ugly, but the interface loads quickly, makes it easy to skip ads/chapters/include subtitles (even if those subtitles are .srt's), easy to change playback speed, etc.

Just like with website design-it's the UX that matters, not how pretty the app is.

mplayer, for example, is just as capably at playing just about any media format, but is definitely far more user-unfriendly than vlc

I disagree.

Regarding user-friendliness they are about the same to me. Can you point out something that I maybe missed that makes mplayer "definitely far more user-friendly than vlc"? (not rude, just curious)

edit: missed a word

Let's start with the fact that mplayer is a command line only interaction program, if you want to discuss real usability, which GUI for mplayer are you using?

While it does require some terminal skills, as far as playing or streaming any media file and skipping left and right a bit (the largest part of my contact with a media player) or shuffling through a music library goes, I find it far easier to work with.

I feel that people too often confuse a user-friendly interface with an intuitive or noob-friendly one. But I guess seeing as most programs' user base's large majority are non-technical people that's fair.

Except when it doesn't. I don't know if they fixed .mkv support yet, but last time I tried (a year ago?) the artifacts were terrible.

Still my fallback if mpc-hc doesn't play something though. But that's rare.

"It just works."

Strangely reminiscent of the success of Apple products.

Except, arguably, for QuickTime which, for half the media I care about, just doesn't work.

Now that you mention it, I do seem to recall myself having grave difficulty with certain Real Media files as well.

If you value all the the time you saved by skipping "unskippable" DVD crap in VLC, please consider donating to this amazing project.

Doesn't it just use mplayer's libraries for playing DVDs? Seems like they would be a better target for donation (particularly since most efforts to support new formats e.g. bluray seem to happen there)

Both VLC and MPlayer use ffmpeg as one of the many decoding modules. The ffmpeg module (libavcodec) decodes many of the codecs out there.

And this is what ffmpeg have to say about donations:

Want to donate to FFmpeg? Well, theres no way to do that currently. Luckily we dont need any money. But there are many not for profit organizations with noble goals that do. Select one of your choice that you trust and agree with their goals and instead of donating to FFmpeg, send your donation to them. http://ffmpeg.org/

So yeah, donating to VLC directly seems like a good choice.

No, it uses FFMPEG (among other libraries), which mplayer also use. The thing is, the libraries don't fit together like jigsaw puzzles, you have to do a lot of work to glue them together. VLC also tries to make a stable library for others to use, in the form of libvlc.

I think the parent is referring to libdvdcss, which is the library that cracks the DRM encryption on the dvd. Without it you wouldn't be able to skip unskippable parts, nor even play the dvd using non-authorized dvd players like vlc.

libdvdcss is developed by the videolan project, which is the umbrella project for vlc.

To be honest I had not analyzed this like the other posters did. I just trusted the people I donated to will contribute upstream (downstream?), if not in money then at least in code. In general, yes, I agree that care should be taken with choosing the best target for donations.

Both mplayer and vlc along with many other open source media players use codecs from ffmpeg project.

Every time I see the VLC website I have to laugh, because I coded it a few years ago back when I was still doing general consulting. It has changed a little bit but it is still nice to be able to look into the code and still see some of my old stuff in there. And yes.... I know some of the markup is terrible. :P

Were you paid? Or part of a "help a free project" endeavor ?

Yes I was paid. It wasn't much, but it was a good learning experience.

VLC's success is truly a testament to how awful the first-party media player solutions are. People know that sparkly, zoomy UIs on DRM-ridden underpinnings are just lipstick on a pig. VLC isn't pretty but it works.

At least one of the Santa Clara county DAs uses it to play back 911 calls in court. That orange cone on his laptop was unmistakable.

Conclusion: VLC is everywhere.

I've always been impressed at what VLC accomplished under the hood, but the usability and configurability of Media Player Classic always pulls me back.

VLC is a great product. Has consistently been among the top media players for the big platforms for quite a while. (Despite occasional slips like the recent changes on OS X, still one of the best.)

I have, as others mentioned too, noticed a certain reluctance among the non-techies to download and install VLC. Even so (or maybe especially so), I promote it whenever I can.

No Linux stats. That's too bad! I would really love to see how they would compare to mac and windows download counts.

About 25% of Debian users who submit to the Debian Popularity Contest have VLC installed on their computer : http://qa.debian.org/popcon-graph.php?packages=vlc&show_... - that includes servers, so the actual proportion of Debian desktop users with VLC is much higher.

I guess most people get it from their distribution's repository, so there are no centralised stats kept for downloads.

VLC has been my go to media player on Linux for years now and I still love it.

I used to love VLC, pity they ruined the OSX version.

MPlayerX all the way now and I don't look back.

I wish they had left the OSX interface alone... The old one was mostly a player, now it's supposed to be a media center... The new UI really is horrible.

Well, now it's on the same league as the Windows version, whose UI has always been pretty bad.

Why is MPlayerX better than VLC on OSX? (Sell it to me)

Personally I've found the keyboard commands to be easier to remember in MPlayerX ( I watch a lot of streams so its dealing with networks ) than for VLC.

Am I the only one who liked the new OSX version?

This is an incredible number...I didn't believe it at first but it makes sense given the cumulative version downloads.

But except for other techies (fellow students in comsci/comp. eng), I ran into very few people who ever used VLC. They just put up with WMP/VLC/iTunes.

Now with Netflix/Amazon/iTunes, I've found myself rarely ever needing another video player. Not that these commercial entities are "better" than what VLC offers, they're just easy enough and provide enough content that I no longer feel the "need" to go to VLC...but that's also because I'm older and have less time to watch things overall.

The trouble with these statistics is there are some rather variable gaps of time between the releases, which makes it hard to gauge growth without doing more research.

I'll just add another data point. After the release of VLC 2.0 I was slightly dissatisfied with the new interface on OS X and used the opportunity to try out a couple of alternative players. In the end I stuck with MPlayerX because of short startup time and the minimalistic interface. But it was only a short love affair. The keyboard controls are pretty much non-existent, it can't open DVD menus, it only shows half the available duration of some of my music DVD rips (dual-layer?!?) and I have some occasional weird timing issues with regard to subtitles (image and subtitles suddenly not in sync). In the end I returned to VLC and all of my issues disappeared.

So kudos to the VLC team for producing such a great product (despite some questionable interface decisions). I'll take a player which "just works" over the pretty and shiny competitors every day.

These guys killed the MediaPlayer market for the bad.

It is one of the apps making knock my head on the table. It is so terribly poor in UX.

While the appearance is IMHO seems to be heavily "inspired" from existing players (e.g. Quicktimes controls overlay) without any charming twist, it is implemented ridiculously poor.

Boys, a cursor that hides when you try to click the playhead!? Ridiculous. The playhead is so idiotically tiny that this crap product turns into a Aim & Click game.

Yea, it's free but this is for no good as it kills any efforts to make something better. This is such a pity.

I am using VLC on linux from time to time, together with others. it is good to know it plays almost everything with a simple UI.

Congratulations to the team. for 1 billion downloads. you rock.

You don't need to hunt any plugins or codecs. You install a monolithic package and everything just works. If something doesn't you probably only need to upgrade.

Saves a lot of time.

VLC used to be a nice simple program that just did what it said on the tin. Now much more bloated with really slow start up. I use GOM player mainly (Windows)

You mean the media-player player that is violating the GPL? http://roundup.libav.org/issue112

I know that it's a fallacious statistic but here is the VLC all time OS market share (rounded):

Windows: 89.38%

OS X: 10.27%

Other: 0.35%

I assume that also doesn't count package manager or App Store installs. Still, OSX seems to be quite a big market there.

I wonder how many percentiles of the Windows number comes from Windows' re-re-re-re-install-ish nature. "Dang, my FPS is low, I gotta "format Windows" again."

I've always held install/download statistics to be just a rough, rough estimate. Personally, I know I can spin up a Windows VM within the span of a lunch break and run a script to automatically install all my default applications (even if I don't plan on using them). When I'm finished with whatever task I'm doing, I delete the VM.

With VLC and Firefox et al, I know reinstalls contribute to a lot of "downloads" numbers. I take the number at face value: it's popular enough to have been downloaded 1 billion times, regardless of how many people are using it right now.

I haven't had to reinstall Windows since upgrading to 7, and didn't really reinstall that often with XP either. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think this has been a big issue in quite a while.

I had a problematic driver state, where hibernate stoppped working. I put up with it for more than a year. Then I bothered to reinstall win 7. And I am amazed at how useful hibernate actually is in my day to day life! Also pressing the touchpanel and deactivating the wifi module use to kill the machine :|

I blame Dell for this issue though, not win7.

I still have a 6 year old Vista partition from when it first launched somewhere (which has since been updated with SP2 ofc).

I have written off ever trying to make that drive look pretty again without breaking everything, but it does still boot and I think all the applications start. Baby steps M$!

I wasn't thinking that, but I was wondering what percentage were incremental upgrades. In other words, I install 1.0, then 1.0.1, then 1.0.2,...

Incremental updates like that could artificially inflate the download numbers. Take that and multiply it by the number of computers you have.

Big numbers are still impressive though.

Pretty sure that died out in the XP days and even then it was due to malware.

I've downloaded it at least 10 times over the years ...

VLC is awesome, but SMPlayer is awesome *2 :)

If you want something smaller, faster and tons more efficient for OS X, I highly recommend MPlayerX instead. It's everything VLC is, and more, with none of VLC's bloat.

Or just install Perian. Which installs most popular codecs system wide.

That means things will work fine in any app that uses the OS X APIs to render video.

Including QuickView .. really nice to be able to just hit space bar in the Finder to see a quick preview of a movie.

The developers just announced the next version of Perian will be the final version. http://perian.org/?eol

I used to be a Perian user, but its complications and shortcomings made me ditch it in favor of MPlayer OS X Extended, which eventually led me to the better MPlayerX. I am in favor of Perian's solution of being a nifty QT plugin, though.

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