Kodi Seeks Android TV Developers to Compete with Forks

Kodi, once called XBMC, is a popular open source media player that has been facing competition recently. Developer Chris Browet has left the development team after trying to provide better Android TV support with custom code. He forked the project, taking the project’s source code and modifying it as his own project, and published SPMC. New features include support voice search and recommendations, features tailored to the Android TV platform. Still, he has continued to make the project open source and allow anyone to contribute.

MrMC

Another fork of Kodi is MrMC, which is available on Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire TV. Costing $7 to purchase, that development team broke off from Kodi and have decided to develop and maintain their own version. The product description says they support IPTV, MythTV, and HDHomeRun, although it’s not clear how else the product is different.

Either way, it’s apparent that on Android, the Kodi project is beginning to split into many different directions. While competition can be good, it also means that the vanilla Kodi development is getting smaller and thus they have recently put out a call for help on their forums.

As many of you know, we are a bit shorthanded in the Android development department. While there are actually two projects SPMC and MrMC that have Android devs committing code, the upstream project Kodi has no one at the moment. If you are familiar with C++ and Android development (particularly recent Android TV development) and would like to help, feel free to speak up in our forums. The devs of SPMC and MrMC are very nice people and would likely be happy to mentor you. In addition, much of the early work you’d need to do would be to simply port the work done on SPMC and MrMC into Kodi, so the learning curve shouldn’t be as steep it otherwise might be.

And we can’t stress this enough, if we don’t get an Android dev soon, Kodi for Android could very well die out. This is a significant future problem.

This likely isn’t going to affect the project right away, they just published an update to v16.1, but without the ability to keep developing the software and committing code, Kodi will just become an unused variant. This post does suggest Kodi’s lagging behind and new developers will have to copy code, new features and fixes, back to this project.

If you’re looking to get more involved in Android development, Kodi is a good place to get started. With over 5 million downloads on Android, you will be responsible for a lot of users and get hands-on experience in building a project.

You may wonder why Kodi is important. After all, if SPMC is just as open but with better TV support, does it matter? It does matter. Kodi is cross-platform, meaning users can take the same plugins that run on their Windows computer and use them on their Android TV. They can get the same content and the same experience, and time is spent making sure that this plugin model works. SPMC doesn’t have the same responsibility. If Chris decides that plugins should behave differently, he could move away from this standard model and do something different. This means users won’t get the same plugins on every device and plugin developers need to work harder to support niche devices. Many won’t, and a lack of content will make SPMC less successful. Another case would be where MrMC corners the market, making users pay for software that is open source and free elsewhere, and it may not support plugins either.

Created in 2003 by a group of like minded programmers, Kodi is a non-profit project run and developed by volunteers located around the world. More than 450 software developers have contributed to Kodi to date, and 100-plus translators have worked to expand its reach, making it available in more than 65 languages.

The original goal of Kodi was to create a standard for media players. While it’s been successful in bringing their software to many platforms, it’s success has been tied to a team that, while disputing occasionally, have agreed on this common goal. With teams breaking off and pursuing different goals, who will be left to maintain the standard?

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker)Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop.Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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  • Bill_Surowiecki

    I have little to no doubt that the Kodi team will get someone to pickup the mantle.

    With that said, I have ZERO issues with members breaking off and doing their own thing if it was needed due to issues or disagreements regarding the product.
    To help solidify this, one needs only remember that the Plex team was once part of XBMC and left over a dispute in how to handle specific things. I think we can both agree them leaving was a good thing for the community.