12 Nov 2013

Open-source Clowns

Open-source software has a reputation of being poorly designed and hard to use, full of sharp edges you can cut yourself on. Nothing illustrates this better than comparing the Linux and Mac versions of MPlayer, a media player. (MPlayerX is the OS X version, in case you didn't know.)

Take a look at their web sites and see how different they are:

MPlayer

MPlayerX

What do you see when you first go to the MPlayer web site? How to play multiple subtitles at once, when "-vf lavfi" is fixed up. Is this the kind of crap that the average user visiting their web site wants? They probably want to know what MPlayer is, and what it can do for them. MPlayerX helpfully talks about how simple, powerful and beautiful it is. Even the web site is clean and beautiful, as opposed to the dark, cluttered MPlayer web site. Look at all the flags and "awards" in the left pane. It looks like a cheap trinkets shop for tourists. MPlayer helpfully shows you a CRT monitor from the 90s, which is emblematic of how clued in they are, while MPlayerX shows you a beautiful MacBook Pro.

Notice the screenshots as well. MPlayerX's screenshot captures a moment of action, a moment of tension — you want to know what's going to happen next. Whereas MPlayer's seems to be about poor, abused Japanese children hiding behind trash bins. Do I really want to see this ghastly stuff? Better close the tab and move on.

There's one thing right about the MPlayer site, though — the subtitle, "I'll manage" is representative of the MPlayer experience.

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  1. Anonymous8:08 am

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