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.

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