January 18, 2005 | Category:

Web Audio, Part 1: Real

Recently, I’ve been playing with different ways of listening to media over the web (see a recent post on the Flash Radio for more). MP3s are out of the question, as they tend to chew through bandwidth, and I can’t necessarily store them wherever I am.

I can see two reasonable options: Real player and Flash.

First up, Real player pros:

  • Established for a long time. This means that there are thousands of files to pick from on the web, covering every genre. This is obviously a big plus.
  • The player is a proper application, which gives the UI consistency you would expect between listening to different files, i.e. it doesn’t matter which stream you listen to today, the UI is always the same.
  • Live streams are possible, rather than being restricted to prerecorded audio.


  • The player itself is garbage. The Windows version has long been associated with adware, spyware, bloatedness and other assorted nasties. I’ve heard nothing but disparaging remarks from Mac users, and the Linux version is dreadful (more on that within the next few days).
  • Quality varies dramatically. Most modern streams are fine, but some older streams are unlistenably bad (optimised for dialup).
  • Trust. Because of aforementioned problems with the player, a lot of users simply do not trust Real and would rather stay away from the software all together.
  • Application launching. Although this allows for consistency in the UI, it doesn’t allow for consistency with a website. Whether this is a major hassle or not is up to the web designers (should they choose to take embedding streams seriously at some point). Components to do this are already available, but most sites don’t bother.

This is not an exhaustive list, what other pros and cons exist?