RealNetworks releases server source code

RealNetworks is completing its Helix DNA puzzle with the release of the source code underlying its Helix Universal Server to the Helix Community, the open source initiative that company announced in July 2002.

Beginning Wednesday, developers can download the same code that powers the commercial version of RealNetworks Helix Universal Server, complete with support for delivering multiple formats.

"It is the same code that underline RealServer and Helix Universal Server used in hundreds of thousands of locations," says Dan Sheeran, vice president of media systems at RealNetworks. "This is not some volunteer project that's a dot-nine release or something."

Wednesday's source code release includes support for serving MP3 and the Real audio and video formats. The two Real formats are available via binary object code and are not open source. All the protocols necessary for delivering streaming in live or on-demand fashion is also included, as well as administration, monitoring and authentication support.

The big difference between what's available commercially from RealNetworks and what's in the open source release is support for server-to-server quality of service and the Apple QuickTime, MPEG-4 and Microsoft Windows Media Format. Developers are free to license those technologies separately and build support into the server on their own.

Sheeran says the company wanted to include the MPEG-4 support, but the proper licensing terms were not available from MPEG-LA, the group of MPEG-4 patent holders overseeing license fees for MPEG-4. Once the license has been established and RealNetworks can determine its financial impact, MPEG-4 will be added to the source code, Sheeran says.

Two licenses are available for those that want to download and use the code in their own products. The RealNetworks' Public Source License allows free use of the code as long as the resulting product is also open source. The Community Source License is available for US$500 to those that do not want the end product to be released into the open source community.

In a related announcement, RealNetworks announced that its Public Source License has been certified by the Open Source Initiative.

By releasing the server code, developers now have open source access to RealNetworks three main products: server, player client and encoder software. "We've completed our delivery on the commitment made in July; all of our system out there in open source code form," Sheeran says.

RealNetworks is pinning its hopes on open source as it battles Microsoft, and to some extent MPEG-4 and QuickTime, in the battle for streaming supremacy. Microsoft gives away most of its tools, player client and server code (part of Windows 2000) and recently announced new licensing terms for companies wishing to port Windows Media to non-Windows platforms.

The server code, which can be downloaded, is available for most major operating systems including IBM AIX, HP-UX, Tru64, FreeBSD, Linux, Solaris, Windows NT and 2000.

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