Tuesday, 29 May 2012

RealNetworks Real Bad Practices

When I was still a command line junkie (not that I don't love the command line now) and having a movie player in your Windows environment was a real exotic experience, in my neck of the woods, there was just one player to use "RealPlayer".  The reason at the time was simple, RealPlayer was one of the very few free players available to download in the sub 10mb size range... And 10mb was a LONG download at less than 1k/sec.

It being free was good, also its propriatory video format was just right, combined with compression, to fit between 3 and 4 minutes of video onto a 3.5" 1.44MB HDD Diskette.  This was very very useful at the time for trading *cough* videos (hey I was young, it was the early 90's, it was technology, and internet shopping had not been invented - so what was a boy to do?).

Anyway, this love affair *cough* with RealPlayer soon changed in nature, first of all they introduced a new installer linking the player (which was a stand alone application) to what they dubbed the "RealNetwork" which I assume worked fine in the States with high speed T1 or early fiber connections, but back here in the UK scrawning around on the old free to dial up internet connections of the time, it resulted in a machine and modem lock up as it tried to download dozens of flittering, pointless, video snippets to demonstrate the player.  This was only annoying...

But it soon turned incidious, around 1998-1999 the RealNetworks installer, started to ask for credit or debit card details to continue to use the RealNetwork.  Despite the fact that we were only installing RealNetwork to get a hold of the RealPlayer they insisted on asking for credit card information.  Of course I declined this, and luckily there were other free players coming on stream by then, and my then girlfriend and I got to really enjoy reenacting some of my collection, but had this charge appeared just 14-18 months earlier I might have been sorely stuck with the option of retiring my video usage of Windows 95 (because Windows Media Player back then couldn't, like now, play any of the more exotic encoding formats properly - like MPEG - lol)... or just coughing up the dough.

I've not touched Real Networks software since, and I maintain I won't because they are a bunch of fleecing deceptive con artists... and it seems the courts in the US agree with me, check it out here or here.

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