Just a few minutes ago at the "D" conference in Carlsbad, California, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser made a bombshell announcement about a new product from RealNetworks.

The company will soon provide a free downloadable video player that allows users to save and organize video files in all major formats including Flash, QuickTime, RealMedia and Window Media.


Some files, which have digital rights management protection, DRM, cannot be "ripped," but a vast majority can.  The huge news here is that Flash .flv files can be saved.  Flash has very little in the way of DRM and it is the most widespread format in online video — it’s used by an enormous range of publishers and video sharing sites including YouTube, Google, Yahoo! Brightcove, AOL and The New York Times.

These downloaded files are organized by the new player and reside in program directories which are not restricted to the user.  In-stream ads are downloaded along with the clips. The company has a premium service that allows users to create DVD’s from their collections.

Ben Rotholtz of RealNetworks came by the Beet.TV studios earlier this month for a demo and explanation.  You will see him "ripping" Yahoo! and YouTube files.  The player installs a little rollover command on most major browsers.  Just run your cursor over the videos you want, hit save and the file is saved to a directory. 

In the demo, you will see that the download is blocked from sites with DRM protection.  In this demo, you will see that NBC does not permit downloading.

The new player will be available next month at RealPlayer.

For a great perspective on this development, check out Robert Scoble who also has video interview. Kevin Delaney of The Wall Street Journal just posted a story.

Update: Not sure how this news will play with video sharing sites, but early reaction from Mike Hudack of Blip.TV is quite enthusiastic.  He just told me:

“This is very exciting news and I consider it a great thing.  Unlike blip.tv, most video sites out there are built as walled gardens and work very hard to prevent people from downloading the video they can view on the Web.  Real’s new product blows this practice out of the water, and it’ll be very interesting to see how these walled gardens respond.”

Update 6/1:  Brightcove CEO blasts new player as "illegal piracy."

— Andy Plesser 


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