A program created by Real Networks, Real Player is a multimedia player. It can play MP3, AVI, MPG, WMA, can display GIF, JPG, PICT files, and is the only program able to play Real content (RA, RAM, RM files). Real content is highly compressed and best suited for grainy, colorless, highly lossy streaming media, and looks the same at 300kbps as at 28kbps. Real Player, on the Windows platform, reached its peak with the G2 (version 6) player. It had the necessary features, provided "channels," or an automatically updated list of streaming media available from around the world, and had a unique user interface.

Then came Real Player 7. Many people regard this, like the creation of the universe, as a bad idea.

Real Player 7 was first released as a beta, sporting an altered UI and some very weak new features. One of the main new features was that it was prone to crashing. Constantly. It also decided it should take up as much memory as possible, and place an icon in your system tray to give you immediate access to Real Player whenever you wanted, as it would take forty-five seconds to a minute to load the memory-hogging resource-intensive player on a first generation Pentium. As an added bonus, it identified you with a GUID in a database and kept track of everything you watched, listened, and recorded.

Finally being released from the beta stages, Real Player 7 went "gold" without a single thing being changed. A month later, Real Player 8 beta was released.

This, too, is regarded as a very, very bad idea.

Real Networks has created a masterpiece with their latest player: it comes bundled (as did Real Player 7) with Real Jukebox, another memory intensive spyware product with nearly zero change from version 7. It sports the same resource-hogging, the same two system tray icons, the same ability to spy on your multimedia activities (though it is able to be disabled), but this time it does not shut down. That's right. Apparently in order to help us properly relaunch the full Real Player interface after having used it once, Real Player 8, when shut down (clicking the X, clicking File>Exit, double-clicking the menu) will not terminate. It instead simply closes the UI, leaving the player running in the background. Taking, I might add, 6.1 MB of system memory, which is extremely helpful for people with 32 MB of RAM.

Real Networks is obsessed with the idea of turning the average home PC into a Real Media machine, whose only purpose is Real Content display at the expense of everything else. I wouldn't be surprised if the priority for the process were set to "high."

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