VLC, the open source media player passed 3 billion downloads last night at CES 2019 where they celebrated this occasion with a live download counter. Here’s what they are planning for the next billion including new features to be added.

What exactly is VLC – a back story

VLC was actually born from the students at a Paris school in 1996 who had gotten frustrated because of a lack of a proper way to stream videos while on Campus. They quickly turned this into an academic project that led to the creation of the VLC media player. VLC has made its name at home or at work for the past 23 years as the most trusted media player since it even plays video formats that are rejected by other media players and is available for all platforms. In May 2012, they reached the 1 billion downloads mark and last night hit 3 billion downloads across various platforms(Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android) – with a quarter of these downloads coming from mobile devices.

Why this is a huge deal?

VLC’s parent company is VideoLan and operates as a non-profit. They have no plans of monetizing VLC which is a free app and does not contain ads or collect user data. They mainly depend on donations from generous users.

Here’s what’s next?

Minor updates include the release of VLC v3.0.6 which now supports HDR videos in AV1 format. The android app is also getting Airplay support. This will make it easier for users to beam videos from their phones to Apple TVs and a couple of non-Apple TVs getting this support including Samsung, Sony and LG. The VLC VR app is also getting a refresh that will enable it to support native VR videos. Other features coming through include support for stereo sound, a virtual theatre that will make it possible for viewers to watch 2D videos and 3D interactions using a VR headset. VLC has done this through reverse engineering popular VR  hardware so that there’s no reliance on manufacture’s SDK thus reducing the number of megabytes of code to VLC.

VLC is also going to major update later this year, version 4.0, which will bring playback improvements in scaling and video quality of HDR video files. VideoLAN even wants to take VLC to more platforms including the Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4 and Roku devices. Even as it expands, VLC isn’t building an all-around media centre solution with Jean-Baptiste Kempf, the company’s lead developer adding that they are never going to compete with Plex and Kodi which offer far more comprehensive tools for managing large content libraries.

The challenges that lie ahead

Here’s why you shouldn’t be that much excited about these updates expected to roll out later this year. The future is bleak for VLC as several open source media players especially those run entirely on donations who’ve closed shop have shown – this should worry VLC who use a similar business model. Either way, VLC has been so lucky but time will tell how far they can go.