The spread of broadband internet access has opened up the floodgates to a torrent of amateur video content. But with thousands of internet TV "channels" available, how do you find something worth watching?
Video sharing website YouTube has become a household word, but it’s just one of many sources for online video content, much of which can be original, amusing, enlightening and outrageous. Quality content can be hard to find and difficult to view, but don’t let that put you off — Miro can help you sort the diamonds from the rough.
Please note: this information was current as of August 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
What is Miro?
Miro is a free PC program designed to be a one-stop-shop for watching online video content. Miro can help you find, download, manage and play video from one easy-to-use interface. You can subscribe to free internet TV 'channels', including video podcasts, video blogs and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) video feeds.
Miro also includes the ability to use BitTorrent, a popular file sharing service commonly used for transferring large files. Using Miro can save you having to juggle multiple programs such as a web browser, RSS reader, a BitTorrent client and a media player.
Formerly known as Democracy Player, Miro took on the name change with its official launch as a public preview in July 2007. It's now up to version 1.2.
Miro claims to play any video file and aims to be as easy to use as turning on a TV, and comes in versions that will run on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Best of all, it's free to download. Unlike other video tools, Miro is an open source program, created to keep the control of online content out of the hands of large commercial groups. It’s the core project of the Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF), a non-profit organisation that supports and promotes independent creativity on the internet.
How it works
Downloading and installing Miro is straightforward. When installing, Miro asks what content you’d like it to handle (and includes a good selection by default) and gives the option of adding the existing video files on your PC to its library.
The Miro interface is easy to navigate. A left-hand panel lists content sources. The top section of this includes standard buttons for Miro Guide, which gives you an overview of what content is available, along with Video Search, Library, New and Downloading.
Clicking on any of these displays the relevant content in the large panel on the right. The bottom part of the left panel lists content channels and folders of related channels. You can add and remove channels to create your own personal directory.
At the bottom of the Miro window is a search panel with dropdown selector for content from YouTube, Google Video, Revver, Blogdigger, DailyMotion, Blip TV, Yahoo! and Yahoo! Video. Alongside the search panel are VCR-style video controls and a volume control.
After you perform a search, the results come up in the main panel, each with a small picture. Clicking the picture starts the download. A 'Details' button gives more information about the file and a link to its location.
Unlike YouTube, Miro doesn’t currently stream video content but downloads it to your computer before you can view it. Fortunately, downloads have an automatic expiry time of five days (which you can change) or you’d soon fill up your hard drive. You can keep individual files permanently if you like, or dump other content at any time.
You can download Miro to your PC from the Miro website, which also promotes the Make Internet TV website — a must-see for anyone wanting to produce their own content.
Miro is a great start for finding, managing and viewing online video content. You’ll need a good broadband connection to get the most out of it, but pull up a comfy chair because there’s plenty to see.
- Easy to use.
- Free to download.
- Access to content in many formats.
- Open source.
- Needs a fast broadband connection for best results.