News website Protocol had an extensive piece on the history and status of the popular open source video player VLC, and the story includes new details about the next major version of the software. VLC 4.0 will, among other things, bring a complete overhaul of the user interface.
“We’ve made the interface a bit more modern,” Jean-Baptiste Kempf, president of the VideoLAN foundation, told the publication. Kempf had shown a version of a new interface about two years ago, but it’s unclear at this point how closely it resembles the one the team plans to introduce with VLC 4.0.
While the article doesn’t list every change, it does outline some other possible directions and priorities for VLC.
The VideoLAN foundation has generally not looked for ways to monetize VLC, but some source of funding or income could help ensure long-term support for the project. To that end, Kempf said VideoLAN is exploring a Plex-like business model, with ad-supported free video streams available in the player. “That’s something that could work for VLC,” he explained. But it was clear that nothing is final on that front.
VLC 4.0 is expected “in the coming months”, but we don’t know more at this point.
Even with the VLC 4.0 details aside, the Protocol article is worth reading, if only for the history behind one of the world’s most successful open source projects if you’re not already familiar (and maybe even if you are) . Here’s an excerpt describing the origins of VLC on a college campus:
The student staff of the École Centrale Paris campus network had a problem. The university’s Token Ring network had become far too slow for students living on campus. For years, the technology had done its job by providing access to email and newsgroups. But by the mid-1990s, the students wanted more. They wanted to download files, surf the web and most importantly play Duke Nukem 3D, which was impossible on the outdated network architecture.
However, the university was unable to provide a network update. In dire need of an outside sponsor, the students struck a deal with a major French broadcaster that wanted to use the campus grounds as a testing ground for an early version of IP-based TV delivery. The idea: Rather than equip each dorm with its own satellite dish and set-top box, students would find a way to stream TV signals over their local network.
“The aim of the project was to show that you could retransmit and decode the satellite feed [it] on normal machines, which would cost a lot less,” said Jean-Baptiste Kempf, president of the VideoLAN foundation. To achieve this, the students developed a video server and a playback app, then called VideoLAN Client. The project was passed on when students graduated and eventually the team behind it decided to make it open source.
Read the article for more details.