We first covered Voddler way back in 2010, when it was just another movie streaming site, with a pretty average selection of titles, and a very cool tech backend called VoddlerNet which delivered stunning playback quality down the line to your computer or media player. We liked it even then, although we had reservations about the overall user experience. Well, my how they’ve grown…!
The new Voddler not only sports a fresh, clean new front end, but it’s added some new features which could literally turn the whole movie industry on its end. The basic service remains as it was, an online streaming movie store, which offers a selection of rental, subscription and free ad supported movies for people to access via their account.
The new service has only been in operation for a few months, so the cupboard remains relatively bare in terms of free and rental content, as you’d expect with something as complex as negotiating deals with global movie studios who still don’t really understand or trust technology.
What this means is you won’t find blockbuster content on offer for rental, just the usual selection of B movies and DVD only fare. The prices are good though, since the average price for renting seems to be just €0.99 (around $1.33). This makes it definitely worth keeping as a bookmark for rainy day viewing, since there are probably some gems hidden among the dross.
The Revolution Cometh
BUT…and it’s a huge but…there’s a whole new ball game opening up with one new feature the company has introduced, and it’s something which really pops. The ViewShare feature lets you upload your movies and then invite your friends and family to watch these movies, even if they don’t own them.
The maximum number of friends who you an invite onto your ViewShare roster is 10, but you can let them watch both movies you have uploaded as well as whichever rental has clearance for the ViewShare function. This effectively means that if you’re already a movie buff (or one of your friends is, or even if you want to club together and form some sort of group movie club), you can share whichever of the latest movies you want with your group, legally and without risking the SWAT team breaking down your door.
Switching on your own movies for sharing is simply a matter of selecting the ones you have uploaded to your private storage on the Voddler servers, and clicking on the ViewShare button. At which point the details and image thumbnails are automatically sent to your group of ten for them to access as part of their available library.
The ViewShare function will eventually require you to have a paid subscription (at the moment the Premium service is completely free in beta as they build up users and content), but your sharing family only pays if they watch one of your rental movies, not for accessing one of your own movies that you already own and have uploaded. It’s also this ability to store all of your movies online in one place which gives an added dimension to the service, since it lets you watch them from anywhere in the world, and on mobile devices as well as PCs. There are no disk space limits to uploads per account.
The other nice thing about the service is you can download the movies so you can watch them offline. You don’t get full access to the downloaded file, they’re only available to play from your computer or device via the Voddler player, but it does offer an extra valuable bit of flexibility in case you’re traveling or not able to access an Internet connection where you are.
Quality is king
One of the most important things about any movie streaming service (apart from non-invasive DRM protection, are you listening Microsoft?) is image quality, and here Voddler really shines. In order to get the best out of the service you will need a good connection though, since it operates on a part P2P system. What I found in testing is the quality is good at standard ADSL type connection speeds, but really outstanding when you hook up a fast fiber or cable connection.
We’re assuming that this high quality is a function of the sophisticated backend peer to peer technology, but it’s not clear even from the diagrams exactly how the company achieves this, along with the near instantaneous ‘video on demand’ functionality. Movie downloads when you use the offline option are also much quicker with a fast connection of course. With a standard 15mpbs broadband account on a PC, a movie can take several hours to download, while with fiber it’s a matter of 5 minutes or so.
The Voddler service is nothing if not ambitious, and the fact that the company has now rolled out such an innovative set of features is a sign that it aims to keep pushing the envelope in terms of technology and user benefits. At the end of the day, however, the company faces fierce challenges from huge competitors such as Netflix, Sky and the cable operators, who will do everything they can to squeeze out smaller rivals by out-bidding them on the better content (aka blockbuster movies).
The addition of ViewShare with movie uploading and storage goes a long way to combating this problem though, and we can see this feature starting to take traction with families and those who want to access current titles without risking copyright issues from using file sharing sites and suchlike.
The Voddler service started life in Sweden, birthplace of Spotify, which seems like it could be a good omen, but there’s no doubt that there are still more challenges ahead before the service can safely claim to have disrupted the movie business as much as it clearly wants to. Definitely a service we will continue to monitor over the coming months and years.