Flowplayer - The Next Open Source Success?

flowplayerI first heard from Flowplayer from the guys at Floobs. Kaitsu, their CEO, said that I might want to check out these guys. The line was something in the lines of '...yeah, He's really good. He worked for us before but wanted to go and develop his own open source project. It's all cool'. This healthy attitude is something that other industries should copy. Very rarely you hear such a supportive attitude toward someone who takes off to develop his own project.

Flowplayer is a flash video player, just like YouTube player. Except that the founders claim it's a dramatically better alternative and they have the number to back up the statement. They are currently receiving 14 000 visitors visiting their site a day and the player is downloaded 1 000 times a day. The founders aim is to make Flowplayer the #1 Flash video player in the world.

Why its better than the alternatives out there

  • Customization - Every single aspect of Flowplayer can be tweaked to meet your needs. This includes both the behaviour and the appearance.

  • Scripting - Flowplayer API is object-oriented and not just a flat list of functions. The event model is taken to the next level, allowing you to link custom functionality to every player event.

  • Plugins - Flowplayer can be extended with plugins. Some already-existing plugins allow you to, for example, place HTML content over the video when the playback ends, or implement custom playlists using only basic HTML skills.

  • Streaming servers - Flowplayer offers specialized streaming plugins for several different types of stream source. You can also build your own.

  • Multiple players on a page - You can have many player instances on a page without compromising the page's load speed or usability. A splash image loads in place of the video players before they are clicked to begin playback - but you can still supply a full configuration to each player in advance of it actually being loaded.

You can see more of the above here.

The story

Flowplayer's story is a story that I have heard many times over, but before it has so often taken place in Silicon Valley. This time it takes place in our backyard, which is something I expect to see happen a lot more often. Good stuff!
The story of Flowplayer began in 2005 when there wasn't good video players around. There was no YouTube and the Internet seemed to lack the kind of video player that works on all major browsers. Flash technology came to rescue and Anssi placed a small open source project called "Flowplayer" to SourceForge. The first version was quite limited but enough to attract a few downloads per day. These download numbers were enough for Anssi to get excited and he started improving the player. Soon it became so popular that he decided to ask if Tero would be interested to join the project.

Tero joined the team at the beginning of 2008 and started working on the website. Soon after that we realized that we want to make a player that is something different - something better...

Business model

Licensing is Flowplayer's number one business model and a single commercial license costs 95 USD. Other commercial licensing types are north of that sum and go up to 1495 USD for a bundled license.

The Free version of Flowplayer is licensed under the GPL license and it includes a copyright notice together with Flowplayer's logo. According to the GPL this information must be displayed even if you modify the source code of the player. Flowplayer's commercial versions are free from this rule and you can brand your player the way you like it. Their number one competitor i is JW FLV Player.

Flowplayer is also experimenting with advertising as a business model. This could yield potentially lot bigger revenues than the simple commercial licensing, but is only in its infancy across the industry. Flowplayer is now partnered with LiveRail, but others have also contacted the company and are working on Flowplayer integration, including EyeWonder, MediaMelon and DoubleClick. Flowplayers's  goal is to have many advertising partners and customers can choose from a list of options, including pure Open Source alternatives that one can host on her own without any ad-networks taking a cut from her revenue. The advertising solution is showing promise already as the company receives 10 queries a week asking about the advertising option. We believe that this space is going to get very interesting before the year is out and we are surely not alone with our prediction.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Odin Chen, February 12, 2009

Awesome post, Ville! Although it's a bit sad to read their story...

Ville Vesterinen February 12, 2009

Thanks Odin! Glad you liked it!

451 CAOS Theory » 451 CAOS Links 2009.02.13, February 13, 2009

[...] seeks attribution Is Flash video player Flowplayer the next open source success asked ArcticStartup, while Roberto Galoppini (again) noted that it appears to exploit an attribution [...]

simossalminen February 13, 2009

Surely Flowplayer guys/gals know about this option?

Jack Handy, February 13, 2009

The JW Player by LongTail Video (www.longtailvideo.com) is soooooo much better than the Flowplayer and way more popular (I see it everywhere, while I almost never encounter the Flowplayer). Probably b/c LongTail offers a ton of skins & plugins for their player, plus they have a whole company dedicated to it (20 people, I think) and they even have ads built into the player if a user wants to turn the feature on. All that for about half the price! Guess the only thing going against them is that they're not arctic ;)

Ville Vesterinen February 14, 2009


Thanks for the insight Jack. Even if you're right about the JW Player's merits, the last obstacle you point out is no small feat to overcome - As they they say, 'It's arctic or nothing baby' ;)

Happy Valentine's day from ArcticStartup everybody!

Jani Penttinen, February 15, 2009

You know, it would be awesome if it actually worked, but all I can see is white when I try to play the video which is embedded in the post above. The one thing that really matters with YouTube is that it works everywhere and you don't need to worry about anything.

Perhaps it's because I'm using Mac, or perhaps it's because I'm currently in China, but neither of those should be a problem for something that aims to be the number one player in the world. (the developers feel free to send me a note if I can do anything to help you debug the issues here)

Ville Vesterinen February 15, 2009


Try reloading the page. That worked for me.

Jani Penttinen, February 15, 2009

Right... just loading the page again didn't, but doing a full reload indeed helped. Not entirely convincing, especially if this happens to other people too, but anything that can be reproduced can also be fixed... ;)

Christian Hartmann, February 15, 2009

in april 2008 i started to work with flowplayer on a commercial project because the look-n-feel of it was very pleasant and teasing. so was the rest of the project. it also seems to be well documented. in the meantime my excitements had calmed down to a minimal rest of the initial ones. i've run into many obstacles in implementing it. some are based on basic flash technology issues, but most of them due to sloppy documentation on the website (onLoadDone() configInject - nowhere documented but related. i had to reads lots of sourec code or forum articles to detect (e.g.) that first clip is NOT #0 but #1 for 'real' clips, but documented differently, events are not triggered under certain circumstances, onPlay does not have a clip parameter - should be obvious from the text, but documented differently also in the docs etc. etc. countless isssues.... bad documentation makes a developers day harder.
at the end of the day .. i stil believe flowplayer is an exiting product, but the _attitude_ of the project is ways to high. specifically if compared to JW FLV Player or OVP and we will not upgrade our commercial license before an in depth analysis of the new version 3 regarding the above described issues.

Anssi Piirainen, March 23, 2009

mr. Jack Handy is probably from longtail co. I've seen similar posts from them previously in the Web, trying to promote their player and bashing ours. It could be true that longtail has some 20 people in their company, but their focus is really large: They are running an advertising network, a video CDN/CMS, and some other ventures under the same company. The player is cheap but the licensing costs go high if you want to run non-longtail ads on the player.

Christian, I recommend that you study Flowplayer 3. It's a complete rewrite and design of the player. The documentation is more thorough now - there should not be those kind of documentation issues that you mentioned any more.


Nori Silverrage, April 17, 2009

Well I don't know about everyone else, but I think that Flowplayer is a very nice, easy to use and fully featured player. I haven't been using it for years since I just found out about it last year, but everytime I have used it I've always found it simple to use, yet robust. Good job guys (girls)!

degenerate, April 23, 2009

I waited for Flowplayer 3 to release (have been following its progress since dec 08) and I would have to agree with the troubles people had in the posts above, yet, the new version 3 DOES fix everything. I'm putting it through a production phase right now and it's awesome to say the least. If you are into jquery definitely check out flowplayer because you can do anything to flowplayer with jquery as if it's a simple div element. A very very important reason to use it over any other player out there, even "open player". I didn't see anyone mentioning the jquery but it is really cool...

asksuperuser, March 20, 2010

Their site sucks. Since two days at least it's been down not serious for a commercial company !

???? ??????, April 02, 2010

It's a great solution for website owners!

qweqwe July 05, 2010

Their latest version is really, really nice ! Plus they support Doubleclick DFP and Google Analytics natively now.

johncein July 21, 2011

what about hdwebplayer ?