What’s Next for Democracy Player?

It’s been a year since the first official release of the Democracy player and podcast client, and the Democracy team is celebrating this birthday with the release of version 0.95. So what’s new, what’s coming up, and when will we see Democracy version 1.0? I checked in with Democracy co-creator Nicholas Reville to find out the scoop.

Democracy is an open source, multi-platform podcast client with integrated video player, program guide and Bittorrent support. Wired magazine called the client “the future of net video” back in May 2006. The present of net video still seems to be closely tied to YouTube and iTunes though, leaving little attention for an outsider like Democracy. So how does one compete with the likes of YouTube?

With Flash support, for one thing. The new version of Democracy supports the download and playback of Flash videos right off of YouTube. Users can search the site from within their client. Even subscribing to a channel is possible, effectively turning YouTube into a giant repository of Flash-based video podcasts, with new episodes getting downloaded onto your hard disk as they become available.

Reville doesn’t see YouTube as a main competitor to Democracy though: “We’re really offering a much different type of experience that is better suited to longer-format video and high quality videos.” Think episodic video podcasts – a space that has so far been dominated by iTunes. “I don’t think Apple has done a great job with video,” says Reville. (However, that hasn’t stopped people from downloading lots of it from iTunes already.)

So far this hasn’t really translated into market share, but interest seems to be growing. Reville says Democracy has seen almost 1 million downloads over the last 12 months, with numbers peaking this week at 20,000 daily downloads with the release of version 0.95.

He sees content discovery as one of the main priorities for the build up to version 1.0, which is scheduled to come out in about three months. The newly released version 0.95 already features improved support for third-party aggregation platforms. Users can submit videos to, Digg and Reddit from within the client.

The team is also working on a major revamp of the internal Democracy program guide, with beta testing for the new guide beginning this week. Says Reville: “We need to do a better job helping people find the best channels.”

All of this is part of a bigger plan to literally democratize television, one video podcast at a time. Reville and his coworkers set up a nonprofit structured after the model of the Mozilla foundation to be free from the pressure a startup in this space has to deal with and focus on their long-term strategy. Time will tell if their plan is gonna work out. “It’s definitely a challenge to get people to download a new type of application,” admits Reville. “We’ll see how we do in the mainstream audience once we hit 1.0.”