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.

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Companies: realnetworks

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

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

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?

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: 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.

kirillian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

PaulT (profile) says:

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.

McBeese says:

Re: 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.

Se7en says:

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?

Vidiot (profile) says:

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.

Jason Buberel (profile) says:

Hopefully, will continue to flourish

In light of some services like MOG, Lala and Spotify, I am a bit unsure of’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 were to fade into oblivion like so many of the earlier initiatives.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Once Bitten... says:

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.

Some Guy says:


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.

EEJ (profile) says:

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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