Rob Glaser Leaving RealNetworks; A Chance To Reflect On How Being Anti-Consumer Fails In The Long Run

from the malware-galore dept

Lots of folks are talking about the news that RealNetworks founder and longtime CEO, Rob Glaser, is stepping down from the job (though will remain chairman, but without day-to-day operational activities). While several people are pointing out what everyone knows (that RealNetworks has basically disappeared off the online audio/visual map despite dominating the field in the 90s), there hasn't been a huge discussion on why. Some have suggested that Real just "missed the boat" with things like MP3s and YouTube video -- and there's something to that. But a bigger issue may be that so many people absolutely hate RealNetworks because of its long history of spreading adware through really sneaky and nasty installation techniques that hid the (checked off) approval buttons. It reached a point that lots of people never wanted to have anything to do with Real ever again. It should be a lesson for plenty of companies that look at short term profits over providing the best overall experience for users.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 6:32am

    As said, Real was the way to watch online videos in the 90s. The adware/malware/virus-like approach certainly harmed the company. But the reason Adobe's Flash became ubiquitous for watching web videos in the 00s is because it made the process easier. Much easier. Flash is simply a much better product for consumers versus what Real offered.

    Real tried to be everything to everyone. It took over all file formats on your computer, even though you told it not to. It would interrupt for updates all the time, so there was always that extra step when you wanted to watch something. There was a "free" version and paid-for versions, sometimes updating would turn your paid-for version into a free version. After a while, dealing with Real became too much work.

    Flash was simply simple. You installed it and you could play games, videos, and music while online. That's it. Is it any wonder it won the online media battle?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 6:32am

    I wish

    I wish RealNetworks would just go ahead and die. From their clunky player, to the adware you mentioned, to the file format lock in, they have been a pain in the ass for years. As a SysAdmin I STILL have to install it from time to time because some jackass thinks it's cute to encode something in a Real Audio format.

    I have no idea whether they have cleaned up their act. I don't really care if they have. I will never personally use them, and I'll remove Real Player from every workstation I find it on unless there is a serious need for it.

    I hope every one of the board members at RealNetworks dies a horrible, excruciating, and embarrassingly hilarious death. I hope Mr. Glaser gets a lethal (and painful) case of the crotch rot and has to be hospitalized and pants-less for the rest of his short pathetic life.

     

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  3.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 6:36am

    Re: I wish

    "I STILL have to install it from time to time because some jackass thinks it's cute to encode something in a Real Audio format"

    You can download the Combined Community Codec Pack for free and use the included Media Player Classic to watch Real formats.

     

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  4.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 6:36am

    Re: Re: I wish

    Watch and listen to Real formats.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: Re: I wish

    Sweet, thanks. It's getting nuked on every single computer I work on then and I'll replace it with that.

    I still hate RealNetworks.

     

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  6.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 6:55am

    Real are a lot like AOL. They were popular in the 90s because everyone was on dial-up, new to the Internet and didn't know any better. Once broadband became common and people learned what they were doing on the internet, they dropped Real (& AOL) like a box of rocks because they realised how poor their services were.

    I remember being impressed by Quicktime video the first time I accessed their movie trailers and soon learned to try and access that format if I could (though admittedly, Quicktime has its problems as well). As soon as Flash video became ubiquitous and I could access most video online with no spyware, that's what I did.

    Just another example of how a company that tries to enforce its business model on the public, rather than changing with the times, is doomed to failure no matter how popular it once was.

     

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  7.  
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    Se7en, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 6:57am

    Exactly. Real Networks was one of the most cynical, sleaziest, sneakiest and underhanded companies when it came to trying to exploit internet user habits.

    Rather than use the knowledge they gleaned about how people clicked/interacted with installation programs to improve the user experience, they actively sought ways to TRICK people into install shit they knew no one would click on/install on their own.

    Wonder who at the company was behind that strategy?

     

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  8.  
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    The Crepes of Wrath, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:10am

    Don't let the door hit you in the ass

    I'd talk...[buffering]...about how much...[buffering]...I hate Real, but...[buffering]...it would take too...[buffering]...much time.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:13am

    Rhapsody seems pretty successful to me, but I am sure I am wrong. Please tell me the ways.

     

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  10.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I wish

    You could download the Real Alternative codec and play it in Windows Media Player. Or you could download VLC, it plays everything from Real Media to Quicktime to HD MKVs.

     

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  11.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:25am

    Re:

    and yet, while the BBC still offered it, I preferred the Real Audio streams over the Flash streams.
    As Flash is a real resource hog, and Real Audio is playable through third party players, such as VLC and mplayer.

    So basically I'd like a successor to Flash, that's leaner and faster, and is supported by a whole host of players. Or Adobe should just open source Flash.

     

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  12.  
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    cc, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wish

    Real alternative is included in CCCP, if I'm not mistaken.

    VLC is pretty sweet.

     

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  13.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wish

    I figured it would be, but I threw that option out there in case he didn't want to download an entire pack plus a new player.

     

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  14.  
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    Vidiot (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:53am

    Great back-end

    The frustrating part was that as nasty as the user-side was, Real had a promising platform underneath... the whole Helix server initiative, open source with an active development community. That was one of the reasons that I still have current, Sony-brand location video production equipment with embedded Helix server capability. (That plus the fact that Sony didn't need to tango with either Apple or Microsoft to license it.)

    Notice how I'm using the past tense... it's been years since Real was requested as a delivery format.

     

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  15.  
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    AdamR (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:58am

    Re: Re:

    Not only is Flash a resource hog but what all the security vulnerabilities that needed to be fix or not yet fixed. I can Flash going to same way as Real in 3 plus years.

     

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  16.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re:

    "Flash is a real resource hog"

    I guess I'm lucky, even with my single-core systems (such as my son's Aspire One netbook) I've never noticed that Flash is a resource hog.

     

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  17.  
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    Jason Buberel (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    Hopefully, Rhapshody.com will continue to flourish

    In light of some services like MOG, Lala and Spotify, I am a bit unsure of Rhapsody.com's future. That being said, for about $10 a month I have on-demand access to a library of abour 6,000,000 tracks. And when I combine it with my Logitech Squeezebox, I can pipe that directly to home stereo equipment.

    If they do release their Android app (in beta now) for streaming audio, I'll be in geek heaven.

    So despite many of their shortcomings, I would be very disappointed if Rhapsody.com were to fade into oblivion like so many of the earlier Real.com initiatives.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wish

    These are awesome suggestions, but I don't hear any suggestions for getting Mr. Glaser into the crotch rot club.

     

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  19.  
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    McBeese, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:54am

    Re:

    Too true about Real and AOL being dinosaurs. Geologists of the future will scratch their heads and wonder if the earth was hit by a plastic meteor from space around the turn of the millennium because of the layer of plastic in the earth's crust. They won't know that it's really just all the waste from the CDs that AOL shipped.

     

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  20.  
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    interval, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wish

    "LC is pretty sweet."

    Seconded.

     

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  21.  
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    AdamR (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I meant to quote the above post mentioning it as a resource hog, I don’t run Flash enough to know if it’s taking more than it really should. You can’t ignore the security issues that have been plaguing Flash for what seem like a long time. I know of at least 3 flaws that took more than 6 plus months to fix.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    :), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:34am

    Real Really?

    I remember real and how I never used it again after the first try and I couldn't really tell why they failed, but I do remember that the image was horrendous and the buffering painful.

    Other things that could go away are flash and JAVA.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I've seen keyboards that skip a letter or two, but whole words?

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wish

    Um...It's just called Russia now.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Re: Re

    Lucy28 is a fag.

     

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  26.  
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    Steve Ballmer, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:50am

    Re: Real Really?

    Yeah. I second that. Flash is for pussies, Java is for the punks who's lunch money I stole in grade school, and real is for ass-backward cum guzzlers like Glaser who need to "spend more time with my family" - sheesh, could you get more gay?

    Get Silverlight.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Re:

    Real tried to be everything to everyone. It took over all file formats on your computer, even though you told it not to. It would interrupt for updates all the time, so there was always that extra step when you wanted to watch something. There was a "free" version and paid-for versions, sometimes updating would turn your paid-for version into a free version. After a while, dealing with Real became too much work.


    Bingo. It got to the point where, if some website required RealPlayer to view content, I wouldn't bother clicking on the link, because I had RealPlayer purposely uninstalled on my system. It was too disruptive of a program.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:05am

    Real is different now

    Real is not the same company it was in the 90's. Everyone here seems to only seems to know the (mostly) failed consumer streaming format and player.

    Real is mostly into mobile video and games today. They do hosted streaming and have an open source (Helix) streaming server that can stream standards based 3gp formats. Their player is the default media player on many phones. They are still there but not as in-your-face as before.

     

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  29.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:35am

    Re: Don't let the door hit you in the ass

    Ha, +1 internets for you.

    And as has been noted, installing a bunch of crappy malware probably didn't help much either.

     

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  30.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: Real Really?

    Developers! Developers! Developers!

     

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  31.  
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    Once Bitten..., Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:59am

    Real Culture

    As one of their business partners in the early days, I was surprised at the adversary culture promoted by the company's CEO. They just wanted to exploit their customers, rather than treat them as the most important part of your business. It showed in everything they did.

    As soon as there was an alternative to RealAudio, their customers deserted them in droves.

     

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  32.  
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    Some Guy, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 12:30pm

    Choice

    One thing Real understood perfectly is that people will tolerate agressive software like that if they have no alternative. What Real didn't understand is not only will folks jump ship when they DO have an alternative, but they will forever hold a grudge against the software that held their computer hostage.

    I'm not a big fan of Flash (or Adobe in general) but at least I don't associate it with something of pure evil like I did Real.

    I think somewhere in the 90s I decided that if Real was my only choice for internet multimedia, then I would just go without. And whatever small amount of influence I've had over the years usually ensured that not a single system in the building had it installed.

     

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  33.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    well, it's not very fast on my netbook (ASUS eeepc901 with Jolicloud Linux)
    video is jittery and can hang firefox.

     

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  34.  
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    EEJ (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 1:44pm

    Fool me once....

    Fool me once, shame on you.
    Fool me twice, shame on me.

    This is the way I feel about Real networks. I used their software in the very beginning, and it worked fine. Then I upgraded to a newer version, had all sorts of adware surreptitiously installed, and I stopped using it.

    A while later, they said they had stopped this practice, and I believed them....but still ended up with unwanted spyware/adaware.

    Now, I wouldn't install their software if you paid me....

     

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  35.  
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    kirillian (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The problem isn't flash so much. It's the fact that you have a netbook...the Atom processor isn't capable of doing much more than just plain booting up Windows (yes, a slight under-exaggeration...)...most netbooks are barely capable of handling email and internet browsing, much less flash, javascript or silverlight. More importantly, if something is just BARELY able to handle something, that generally spells problems when you run across something that's just a little more intensive or poorly coded than usual...and, honestly, Video is one of the hardest things for computers to handle.

     

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  36.  
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    Danny (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 3:57pm

    hated the sneakware

    I hadn't ever thought about the fact that other people were sharing my experience. But it certainly is true that I once had a Real subscription (to listen to basketball and football games) and ended up giving up the games in order to drop Real given the frustrations I had with them.

    Sure does look like I was not the only one.

     

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  37.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jan 15th, 2010 @ 4:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    well that's simply not true, as I can play most videos just fine, without jittering (at least non-HD stuff), it's Flash that makes my computer go crazy. But if what you say is true, then why doesn't Ima have the same problem?

    It's just that Flash (especially on Linux) is a resource hog.

    weird thing though, often, when I put the flash video in full screen mode, it suddenly stops being jittery, and I get good quality video.

     

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  38.  
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    Brandon, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 7:36am

    Re: Don't let the door hit you in the ass

    LOL

    My vote for comment of the day!

     

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  39.  
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    AnonCow, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 9:05am

    Never blame on anti-consumerism what is easily explained by complete and utter incompetence...

     

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