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Voddler – movie streaming for the masses?

I’ve recently managed to get a hold of a beta invite to Voddler, and thought I should tell you a little about my experience of it. But first, big thanks to Gunnar Bark (Tweets in Swedish, follow him!) who tipped me off about a Voddler invitation competition. It was run by Christian Rudolf at mjukvara.se (In Swedish, but definitely something to add to your feeds) who had 15 invites to give away.

Anyway.

Two years ago, I got to test Spotify, a music streaming that will soon launch in the US and is heavily anticipated. It completely changed how I listened to music, I deleted all my mp3:s and is now streaming all my music. Voddler is a similar streaming service, but for movies.

So, what do I think of it?

First of all, Voddler is in a very early phase of testing. It’s what I would call a “real beta“, where the client crashes frequently, subtitles sometimes lag behind, the interface is tricky to use, and several features just don’t work.

Thing is, I’m quite certain Voddler will revolutionize how I watch movies, anyway. Because at the core of Voddler is HD-quality streaming, that just works. Believe me, I normally don’t watch that many movies, but have seen four, in the last 48 hours. They are just a couple of clicks away, and start in 10 seconds (during which you’ll watch a commercial). Here’s some screenshots.

Now. I’m saying that the client is a beta, and that there are serious bugs left, what kind of bugs do I mean?

  • About half of the menu options don’t work. “Tv series” lead nowhere, I can’t browse movies by actor, director, studio, and several genres are empty. In my opinion, they would gain a lot by just removing those options until they lead somewhere! This is a no-brainer.
  • The client freezes and crashes regularly, and I have never been able to watch two movies in a row without restarting in between. This of course requires squashing bugs that are left in the code, and improve the testing procedure, so that such bugs never reach production code. Using mozilla-style reporting that allow people to send in crash reports is probably a good idea at this stage. The code is based on XBMC, and people say stuff like “how could they add that many bugs to a product that good?!”. Voddler, don’t make it that easy to dismiss your hard work!
  • Sometimes the subtitles skip some lines. I watched Antikiller, a russian action movie, five times important lines were shown only half a second on the screen, making me miss important pieces of the story. I’m not sure if this had something to do with the subtitles for that exact movie, or lag because of Voddler, but I know that it was a crappy first impression of the client. It just has to be fixed.
  • The support forum is so slow it’s unusable. My guess is that it’s on the same network as the movie streaming service, and therefore goes down together with that one. Those two just have to be independent, as you need the forum most when the other is down.
  • The UI doesn’t work usability-wise. First of all, it’s built for television sets, which means that only the keyboard works (arrow keys, space and esc), no mouse support. Several of the menues cycle (when you’re on the end the first item appears again), so you’ll easily loose track of where you are. There are small errors all over the place, things that makes finding and starting movies difficult.

So, in summary, the core of Voddler is good, but the interface needs quite a lot of work before it can be released to the public. No matter what, I’ll keep following the development of this product!

In general, it seems that when you Americans stop us from using your servies (ie. Hulu), we Swedes build our own services. First Spotify, now Voddler.

Friendly Bit is a blog by Emil Stenström, a Swedish interface developer and web strategist that blogs about the modern web and how to make best use of it.