Miro – Open Source Video Aggregator | In Depth Guide To The New Democracy Player

6 min read

Miro LogoThe number of Internet video players and aggregators is
increasing, each of whch is promising to bring the latest movies, TV
and podcasts to your PC.

Most of these however, rely on closed, proprietary
technologies in which the viewers are passive viewers. But this isn’t
the case with Miro, the newly re-branded Democracy player.

With a new look, a more cohesive website, some added features
and a
growing social community, Miro shows all of the signs of a good product
that is going mainstream.

This is the reason behind the name change,
for instance, which was decided on to remove the political connotations
many had associated with the Democracy Player brand.

Miro still packs the same great features
that made
Democracy such a great tool:-

Miro Header

You can watch and store just about any
video format in the player, subscribe to over 1800 online video
channels, search and download movies from most of the major
video publishing destinations and even download torrent files
to watch them in the full-screen player.

Furthermore, Miro is cross-platform,
working on all major computer operating systems, and therefore it
allows all kinds of users to take advantage of its cool full

Throw in some of the best looking high-definition
video available online and code that is 100% open-source,
and you have a truly impressive all-in-one video playback and
tool for your desktop.

Here are the details:

Democracy Player Becomes Miro

What was Democracy is now Miro,
then, but the interface and feature set will not hold any great
surprises for those already familiar with the Democracy

So what’s changed?

A new name, logo and website design
aside, Miro has
added more video sharing services to its search functionality, created
an all new channel guide featuring over 1800 RSS-enabled web TV
channels to choose from, and the useful addition of keyboard shortcuts
for the Miro application.

The relaunch as Miro has also brought with it a
to building a community around the platform, also, and the Miro website
benefits from being both more jam-packed with instructional materials
along with active user forums and irc
chat capabilities besides.

Miro Player – Features Overview

Miro Player

In brief, here are some of the key
selling points of this flexible, cross-platform
desktop application:

Aggregate all
of your video in one

Whether you have DivX
movies and DVD-rips on your hard-drive, home movies in your iMovie
collection or videos posted to YouTube
Miro makes it easy to organize them all into your own video library and
play them back using a full-screen player.

In addition to your own videos you can import
movie files from
major video sharing services, subscribe to the RSS feed of any podcast
in existence, download torrent
files straight to Miro and easiest of all subscribe to any one of over
1800 video channels in the built-in Miro guide.

Miro Guide

High quality, Multiple-Codec

Miro HD Channels

Go looking for the kind of high-definition
video that still looks great on your 23″ monitor, and you are
likely to fast run into roadblocks. 

Certainly the video streamed by
and Babelgum
manages to look a lot better than that served by YouTube, but you
are still talking a far cry from high-definition footage.

Miro, on the other hand, claims to be the
biggest source of HD
on the Internet. The reason behind this is simple – Miro is a download,
tool rather than a streaming
video service.

This makes use of the BitTorrent
technology to distribute large files quickly and effectively over a

Miro Codecs

because Miro, like
its predecessor, was built on top of the awesome open-source
video player VLC,
it has more built-in codecs
than you could ever hope to make use of. 

What that means for the
non-video-geeks is that you will be able to play and import video in
just about any format under the sun using Miro.

While Windows
Media Player and iTunes
are very exacting about which type of media files they are willing to
play back for you, there are very few videos out there that Miro will
have any trouble playing back. 

And like VLC, Miro is truly cross-platform,
allowing you to
run the
client application on your Mac, Windows PC or a great number of
GNU/Linux builds which is great news for those looking to enjoy
video from a Free Software environment.

Opening Up Usability and Community

Miro Screencasts

One major difference
Democracy users are
likely to notice is that Miro has a lot better support behind it than
its predecessor. 

While Democracy was never difficult to get to grips
with, with the same going for Miro, a range of instructional and
community features make sure that Miro is easy to use and

In the collection of preset channels available
when you first
Miro, for instance, there is a great series of screencast tutorial
videos from the PCF

This series of well-made videos talks you through everything
the very basics to more advanced user-options, like organizing and
creating folders for your video library. 

Of course this makes for a
welcome addition, and as always a couple of minutes of well-made video
is worth pages of written documentation.

Miro Forums

Forums And A Chat Room

Adding to this instructional
Miro now has an already quite
active forum
where users can discuss bugs, seek advice from the Miro community,
discuss the platform or share ideas about video production and

For a platform that has always been dedicated to
openness and
user-feedback, the addition of a forum is a step in the right

In addition there is also a (somewhat bare-bones, buggy) IRC
chat room
on-site, which users can enter at any time or visit for scheduled
meetings with the people behind Miro for hands-on feedback and

Miro Creators

Video publishers
are also
well-catered for, as anyone is free to use Miro as a platform for
distributing their vodcast
or video shows. 

While the free Broadcast
tool is still available, however, for creating your own channel, it is
no longer supported and is due a major overhaul in the near future.

Nevertheless, to create a channel all you need
is a series of
videos and an RSS
feed, and to make things easier, Participatory
Culture Foundation has created a complementary website full
of tutorials called Make
Internet TV.

For publishers using the service to distribute
your video
show, Miro
also makes it super-easy for viewers to subscribe to your channel using
these buttons that can be placed on your blog, website or next to
wherever else your video might appear. 

For those that still struggle
with the concept of RSS syndication, these buttons provide a
one-click way for potential followers to get the latest episode of your
show right to their Miro
player, every time you publish.

The Importance of Open Video

Miro Code Open Video

is founded on strong principles of open, participatory
media and open-source

What this means is that instead of simply providing a
free video player client like those available from Joost
or Babelgum,
Miro offers a platform that can contributed to by its users.

Closed, proprietary systems are focused on doing
deals with
mass-media content providers and piping them to your computer just as
they are piped to your television. 

The room for feedback, and certainly
for creating your content and seeing it published, is very limited

Miro, on the other hand
is not
only Free/Open-Source
software in the coding sense – i.e. the source code is available to all
to improve or build on under the GPL.

It’s also in its commitment to providing an open opportunity
anyone to publish their own video channel, download or import video in
a rich variety of formats and make use of whichever operating system
they feel most comfortable with.

In the age of
broadcasting systems, DRM,
and one-way,
top-down mass media making its presence felt online, Miro
comes as a refreshing breath of relief to those who believe in the
power of disruptive
(media) technologies.

Whether you care or not
this emerging
landscape, where we make and participate in rather than passively
consume the media, Miro still has a great set of features worth
checking out. Its focus on openness is the icing on the cake.


is an effective repackaging of the previously
reviewed Democracy platform,
and has managed to add some great social and community-based features
to its host website, which has also had a significant design makeover.

If you have been following
this past year, you won’t find a great many changes to the last
incarnation of the Democracy player – what you have here is a
re-branded platform that continues its dedication to open-source
culture and participatory

For those less familiar, or others who may not
have checked
out Democracy since
its launch last year, there is a lot to see. Here is a cross-platform,
video player, library, search tool and broadcast technology rolled into

With the ability to play video
just about any format you can throw at it, the capability to search and
download videos from the major
video sharing platforms, and a foundation in RSS
and P2P
technologies, this is one tool well worth adding to your kit.

I for one am looking forward to the
soon-to-be-released 1.0
but let it be said that a few rough edges aside Miro is the closest you
are likely to get to a unified, all-in-one video aggregation,
playback and channel recommendation tool.

And the best thing about it
that as an
open-source project with growing community elements, you can play an
active role in the future development of Miro, and help to shape it
into an even better tool as time goes by.

Additional Resources

If you would like to learn more about the Miro
platform, you
might want to take a look at the following links:

Originally written by Michael Pick for MasterNewMedia
and titled Open-Source
Video Player And Aggregator Democracy Player Launches New Mainstream
Version: Miro Is Here
 on July 23rd 2007. Some
Rights Reserved