Golem has conducted a very interesting interview with VideoLAN founder Jean-Baptiste Kempf, in which he explains at length how the development of VLC, probably the most famous media player of all time, came about. It celebrated its 20th birthday on 1 February.
Among other things, Jean-Baptiste Kempf explains that the development of the VLC player has been guided more by coincidence than by a master plan, which has almost led to the project's demise. What is really interesting, however, are his statements on the legal problems of the VLC player, especially because of software patents and codecs:
"So far, everything has gone quite well in France and the EU, mainly because these patents don't apply here. But there are efforts for a European patent with uniform effect - especially from Germany. The Germans are pretty much behind the curve on this and are pushing hard for software patents. With that, they will probably destroy things like VLC at some point (...) Most media-related patents are patents on simple mathematics. You just take this transformation or this matrix, patent these numbers and then nobody is allowed to use them. That honestly has no creation value."
And he is also rather critical of other developments in the future, but also with one or two rays of hope:
"I don't like that we are going in a direction right now where a few platforms dominate everything. Even if it's not a monopoly, there are only three or four companies. The power is moving from the creatives to the aggregators, that's not cool. On the other hand, the creatives and the distributors have exploited their power for too long with the copyright madness. I think we are moving away from something with difficulties and problems that we knew to something new that we don't know yet. But technology is moving on, there will be more open codecs like AV1 or Opus for audio. So the patent issue might become less important - which I hope it will."
In any case, it will remain exciting to see how much German politics also help determine the fate of such great open source projects. And we keep our fingers crossed that the VLC will still be as lively in 2031 as it is today.