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VLC surpasses five billion downloads, preps Vision Pro app

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Welcome to Lowpass! This week: VLC’s big milestone, and Dreamscape’s pivot.

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VLC surpasses five billion downloads, preps Vision Pro app

Open source video player VLC surpassed five billion downloads across desktop and mobile platforms in recent days, and Videolan president Jean-Baptiste Kempf told me that the project is anything but done: In addition to continued work on VLC 4.0, the Videolan team is also in the process of porting VLC to Apple’s Vision Pro headset. Kempf said that VLC may even add FAST channels in the future.

VLC launched 23 years ago as a student project, and has since become one of the most popular open source apps of all time. The app surpassed three billion downloads in early 2019; interest in it remains strong, despite the growth streaming services like Netflix have seen in recent years. The latest version of VLC, which was released in November, has already been downloaded more than 335 million times by desktop users alone.

VLC also continues to see a lot of usage on mobile devices; Android and iOS versions of the app have been downloaded around 318 million times combined. “People are still downloading VLC a lot,” Kempf said.

The rise of VLC and affiliated software projects also resulted in Videolan becoming an indispensable part of the online video technology industry: Just last week, news broke that Google will be using Videolan’s Dav1d decoder as the default decoding solution for the AV1 video codec in Android going forward.

What’s next for VLC. Not content with just being the most popular media player on desktop devices, the Videolan team is already setting its sights on next-generation platforms.

  • “We already have a version of VLC running on the Vision Pro,” Kempf told me. 

  • However, the app hasn’t been released yet, in part because the potential user base is still very small. “I’m not sure there is any use case yet,” he said.

  • Kempf said that he was open to working on a version for Meta’s Quest headset as well, but added that there were already “many good players” available on that platform.

  • All the while, work continues on the next big VLC update: Version 4.0 of the media was supposed to be out some time ago, but it’s proven more complex than anticipated, according to Kempf. “We’ve been rewriting the whole core of VLC,” he said.

  • The Videolan team has also been working on a WebAssembly version of VLC, which would essentially bring the player to the web, doing away with the need to download anything at all.

The future of media software in the age of streaming. Doing so will help VLC keep up with a massive global shift towards streaming. Netflix was still a DVD-only service when the first version of VLC came out. Now, DVDs are a thing of the past not just for Netflix, but also for many of VLC’s users.

  • “People, especially the younger generation, expect to stream,” Kempf acknowledged.

  •  The Videolan team has been trying to figure out how to best balance those changes in consumer behavior with continued interest in video file playback.

  • Nightly release versions of Videolan 4 show a much more content-focused interface, which replaces the default player window with a view of someone’s library. However, Kempf cautioned that some of those changes would likely get reverted before the app’s official release.

  • At the same time, he suggested that VLC could potentially go even further, and at some point offer access to FAST channels and other ad-supported online media. This would allow people to start watching something right away.

  • Plans for this aren’t finalized, and any such integration would always be optional for VLC’s users, Kempf said. 

The continued success of VLC can also be seen as a barometer for the media biz. VLC can be used to play back all kinds of media files, and has been compared to a Swiss Army Knife for its ability to deal with almost any codec imaginable. But it’s also clear that a sizable subset of its users rely on it to play copies of movies and TV shows downloaded from questionable sources.

As streaming services continue to raise prices, delete content and restrict access to advanced features, they are at risk of driving consumers back to piracy. Last year, piracy sites reportedly got visited 141 billion times – a 12% increase when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

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Dreamscape closes its last location in North America

Dreamscape Immersive, the VR startup blacked by Steven Spielberg, is all but exiting the location-based entertainment market: Dreamscape’s Los Angeles outpost is closing this weekend, as the company is continuing its pivot to VR education.

Dreamscape first announced the closure on social media this week, and the company’s marketing director Jeanne Zacarias confirmed it in an email. “Yes, our Los Angeles location is closing, but we will continue boarding VR adventures in Riyadh and Geneva,” she wrote. 

“Dreamscape Immersive is setting its sights on its own next chapter," Zacarias added, writing that the company was now fully focused on its Dreamscape Learn platform, which aims to use VR as an educational tool in high schools and colleges. Dreamscape Lean has already been used by over 25,000 students, Zacarias claimed.

This is quite a pivot for Dreamscape, which pitched itself as the future of theaters when it launched in 2017. After launching its first owned-and-operated space in 2018, Dreamscape struck a deal with AMC to open a number of additional VR centers around the company’s movie theaters. However, those outposts were short-lived: AMC’s Dreamscape locations shut down in 2023, as did a Dreamscape outpost in Dubai.

 Zacarias did not comment on any layoffs associated with the change in direction.

What else

This startup is picking up where Microsoft’s Kinect left off. For Fast Company, I took a closer look at the Nex Playground motion gaming console.

Future-Forward Storytellers. Going to SXSW? Meet your new marcomms taskforce telling tales to transform the future of entertainment experiences.(SPONSORED)

The European Commission fines Apple $2 billion. The fine follows a 2019 complaint by Spotify that alleged unfair trade practices.

Google may be getting ready to release a new Chromecast. Mentions of a new “YTD” model have shown up in the Google Home app.

iOS, iPadOS and VisionOS gain WebM, Ogg Vorbis support. Apple has added full support for the open media formats to Safari 17.4.

Warner Bros. Discovery is shutting down Roosterteeth. The Machinima pioneers, best known for their “Red vs. Blue” show, will wind down after 21 years.

Sling TV launches Arcade game platform. This is interesting: Sling TV users can now play casual games, right on their TVs.

VR headset sales surged in Q4. Meta was able to significantly grow its market share with the introduction of the Quest 3, according to new IDC data.

Twitch’s mobile app is getting Stories. Welcome to 2016, Twitch.

That’s it

Meta dealt with a significant outage earlier this week, which took down Instagram, Facebook, Threads and other services for a few hours. I know what you’re thinking: It happens! We all survived it! But with Meta increasingly venturing into hardware, these outages are also starting to have some unintended consequences. As my former colleague Mike Murphy put it: “Kinda wild that Facebook went down and that meant I couldn't log in to my sunglasses.”

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend!

Photo by Kevin Jarrett on Unsplash

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