Techin5 Developer Interview – VLC (VideoLan)
After a lengthy break, we’re bringing back to Techin5 Interviews in style. As you’ve noticed, we’ve dropped the ‘Developer’ bit from our Interview logo and that’s because we’re hoping to interview more than just developers as the year goes on. This is also our first interview of the year, so you can expect more as time goes on. If there’s a company/person/developer/team you really want us to ask questions to, then let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to make it happen. Similarly, we’ve also got a spot in the forums where you can post who you want us to interview, and what questions you have for them. You can find the forums here.
So who do we have for you in 2013? Why VideoLan of course, or better known for their VLC media player. VLC is easily the most popular video player that we know of (that’s a 3rd party program), and it’s not surprise that with VLC planning to expand into the mobile market – that we would have some questions to pose to them. From VLC, we have Jean-Baptiste Kempf who is one of the men in charge of the Windows Phone 8/Windows 8 VLC ports. Jean-Baptiste hails from France, and has a deep understanding of the VLC business, as well as the way things work on a day-to-day basis within the team. Considering VLC is working toward a new WP8/Windows8 port, most of the questions focus on that – but there’s more interesting tidbits within the interview itself so read on to find out more! We also managed to cram in some community questions into this interview, so keep on asking!
Techin5 Developer Interview – VLC
Please tell us a little about yourself, and what your role is within the VLC team.
I am a 29 year old engineer, living in France, working in a small startup. I am one of the main VLC developers, and the president of the VideoLAN non-profit organisation, doing most of the non-tech work around VideoLAN projects, VLC being one of those projects.
VLC is the go-to-program on computers today. Why do you think other programs don’t even come close to VLC in the popularity department?
I think VLC is popular because it plays a lot of files, broken or not, without getting too much in your way. We don’t have marketing teams forcing features on you or spying on you, like many of our competition. It just works.
And it is a bit binary: if VLC cannot play one file, installing whatever codecs or addons will not make it work.
What are your thoughts on Windows 8, and how do you feel it affects the current PC space?
Windows 8 is an interesting piece of software, that has quite a few good improvements and features, but I sometime feel it is not polished enough. The relevance of ‘infamous’ Modern UI will depend on how much people will use the touchscreens on the new hardware. Microsoft had to react to the mobile/tablets trend, and it did. Whether they did it right is not really relevant to us: we have to support VLC users everywhere
For developers, there were some important changes, some who are a good idea, notably the cleaner APIs, but some are completely stupid and infuriating.
That’s good to hear on the support part at least. You recently launched and successfully funded a Kickstarter Campaign (congratulations by the way) for VLC on Windows Phone 8/Windows 8. Why did the VLC team really need so much money for the aforementioned campaign?
First, this is not that much money Once you take out KS share, taxes, removed pledges, VAT, sending T-shirts and mugs, there is quite a bit less money. Then, the main reason we need some money, (while we never ask money and we’ve always done everything as volunteers), is that there is a lot more work under the hood to adapt to the new APIs than people expect. If we did it the way we do things usually, it would take 2 years to
port, and I doubt people will like this fact.
And speaking of design, who are you getting to design your Win8/WP8 apps? And why did you choose them?
So far, we have had 2 designers that showed up to help us and sent designs that were not crazy, so they arrive inside the project. We will get a bit of external help and consulting at some point, but that it mainly how things come and go for open source communities.
Now that VLC will have an app on various major platforms (5 or 6 at least), how are you going to choose the order in which platform gets prioritized over the other (eg: Windows legacy first? Then mac, ios windows 8, android, windows phone etc)?
We don’t prioritize. We don’t have roadmaps usually: we are open source, volunteers and self-organiwed. People work on what they like or care about, not under orders. I guess that the new platforms will get a bit more love than the other ones, if they are popular enough. And platforms cool to develop in, too.
But, if no one comes to help us, some platforms will die…
Oh dear, hopefully the community can help out if that’s ever the case. Do you have anything new to share with us in regards to the looks of the app for Windows 8 and/or Windows Phone 8?
Frankly, no. The mockups we sent earlier are still the base we are working on, but they might evolve. So far, we don’t know, because we have a lot to do still…
In Windows 8, what are you offering users over other current apps that have the same functionality? Perhaps an integration with Windows Phone 8 somehow, etc?
I don’t know any free Modern UI application, that plays all the files format that VLC can. And if you add the open-source not-spying-on-you part too, we are quite unique. And this is also true for the desktop, I guess.
When would the different Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 version be ready?
When it’s ready
Skipping over to the iOS store for a bit, VLC was pulled from the App Store a while back for various reasons. Do you plan on making a return with a new VLC app for Apple products?
We plan to, but the legal part are still very hard to figure out. So far the VLC on iOS is sooo much faster than one that was on the App Store.
Hopefully we’ll see something soon for our iOS fans. Does the VLC team have any new cool features in store for Computer users in the near future?
We are working quite a bit on improving the audio core, the playlist and the subtitles, and of course new codecs and Blu-Rays, but the focus those days is to stabilize and improve performance, more than big new features.
Sounds great! Finally, what would you say to aspiring developers looking to join the VLC team? And imparting words of wisdom here?
Join us! It is easier than you think to work on one of the top application in the world.
Thanks for your time Jean-Baptiste!