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Review: Miro 1.1

Originally published at Lost Entropy. Please leave any comments there.

Broadcast TV content can be good (24, for example), it can be bad (Big Brother, for example), but it’s mostly made by the same groups of companies and you don’t really get to see what else is out there. More often than not, the only programmes that get made are the ones that get signed by the networks (the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, BSkyB, and several others). This means that the networks decide what does and doesn’t get made, and we actually miss out on some really good content, and it’s been that way since the BBC took over the operations of Baird’s TV service back in 1932.

Fast forward to late 2005.

Suddenly there’s a new website where you can type in a word or two and you get videos about your chosen topic. It’s good, and completely changed the way people use video on the Internet, but it’s on a website, you can’t download the video files to watch on your TV/iPod/whatever, and most disappointingly of all? It’s all in pretty crappy VHS-like quality. VHS-quality in 2005? Something’s not quite right. There was a spark of a solution in something called Democracy Player, but it sounded more like a political statement than a video content source, and it wanted to use all these shiny technologies like BitTorrent to make this all work, but it was still in beta, and wasn’t that great. Youtube was king, simply because IT WORKED.

Fast forward to 2008.

Democracy Player came out of beta, got renamed to the much-less-political-sounding Miro, and is now at v1.1. So what? Well, Youtube should be worried. To get a new “TV channel” on normal TV, you need to phone up Sky or Virgin Media and pay through the nose. In Miro? Just press the “Add” button. Oh, and it’s free. On top of that, the majority of the content is in High Definition, AND it downloads screamingly fast, because it uses BitTorrent under the hood. Because the torrents Miro uses are LEGAL, it means that people actually seed them, meaning you have more places to download from when you want to watch TV (meaning your downloads are very fast indeed). Now whilst I realise that I am lucky enough to be on 20mbit/s broadband (something of a rarity in the UK), it’s still very fast compared to non-Miro torrents because of the extra seeding.

Now, okay, that might seem like a technical description, but here’s what all that technical stuff adds upto in real-life terms: you get HD-quality television content, completely free of charge, produced by independent content producers (both professional and amateur — the ratio’s a lot more towards the professional for now, which is a bonus, unlike with Youtube, although some of the amateur content is very very good too).

So if you want something very good indeed for, well, nothing… give Miro a try.