I used to use RealPlayer as much as I could, to view streaming media from web sites. Part of my hope was that by using Real I could help prevent the world from switching to Microsoft's Windows Media format.

Sadly, Real has done much to make users hate them. Downloading the free player from their site has gotten hardern and harder over the years. The last time I looked, the page which supposedly allows you to download the free player consists of a giant advertisement for the commercial Pro player, with a tiny, off-to-the-side, hard-to-find link to the free player. And this is on the page where the user has already gone in the hope of finding the free one.

Once it is installed the user experience does not improve. Like most media players, RealPlayer tries to register itself as the launcher for about everything on your system. And it doesn't quit quietly after you finish playing whatever stream you wanted to view. On quit, it pops open a message center nagging you to upgrade.

I don't appreciated being nagged so frequently when I use a product. It makes me sad to see Microsoft consume every field it wants to consume, but in this case they hardly needed help. Real discovered that it would be in a fight with MS, and Real promptly pulled out a gun and shot themself in the foot. Then they shot themself in the other foot for good measure, and when MS shoved them, they fell over. Microsoft didn't win the fight as much as Real lost the fight.

(February 2004)


Update, August 2004

The radio show Car Talk publicly dumped RealPlayer in early 2004, and wrote a public article explaininig their decision. The article may have shamed Real into shaping up, because a few months later, Car Talk announced that they where switching back to RealPlayer. As part of their discussion with Real, they were provided with a direct link that would go directly to the download page for the player.