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Boxee is a cross-platform freeware media center software with a 10-foot user interface and social networking features designed for the living-room TV. Boxee is a fork of the free and open source XBMC media center software which Boxee uses as an application framework for its GUI and media player core platform, together with some custom and proprietary additions. Marketed as the first ever "Social Media Center", Boxee enables its users to view, rate and recommend content to their friends through many interactive social networking features.

 Boxee is still under development and is currently only available as alpha releases for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, as well as Apple TV, for computers with x86 architecture processors. The first public alpha of Boxee was made available on the 16 June 2008 for Mac OS X.

 

Boxee has expressed interest developing a dedicated set-top box (hardware) for Boxee;[8][9] the company is also interested in licensing the Boxee media center software and its social networking service as a third-party software component to other companies for them to use the Boxee software in their hardware, such as game-consoles, set-top boxes from cable-TV companies, Blu-ray Disc and DVD players, or embedded computers built-in directly into Television sets. Boxee has also stated that their goal is to have Boxee run on as many third-party hardware platforms and operating systems as possible.

 

Boxee media center software is being developed by a startup company, (Boxee, Inc.), which is financially backed by venture capital firms General Catalyst Partners together with Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital.

 

Overview

 

Boxee supports a wide range of multimedia formats and includes features such as playlists, audio visualizations, slideshows, weather forecasts reporting, and an expanding array of third-party plugins. As a media center, Boxee can play most audio and video file formats, as well as display images from many sources, including CD/DVD-ROM drives, USB flash drives, the Internet, and local area network shares.

 

Through its Python plugin system, Boxee includes incorporated addon features such as Apple movie trailer support and subtitle downloading, as well as online internet content channels and services, like BBC iPlayer, Jamendo, Joost, Last.fm, NPR, SHOUTcast internet audio plugins, ABC, Blip.TV, CNET, CNN, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV Music (music videos), MySpaceTV, Netflix, Revision3, YouTube, The WB Television Network internet video plugins, and Flickr and PicasaWeb picture viewing plugins. All are available as media sources available alongside the local library. Some of these are specialized connections to services (e.g., YouTube), while the rest are a preselected list of podcast channels for streaming using generic RSS web feeds (e.g., BBC News).

 

Boxee had supported NBC Universal's Hulu quite early on, but in February 2009, was asked by Hulu to remove the service at the request of Hulu's content partners. Boxee later reinstated the feature using Hulu's RSS feeds, but Hulu once again blocked access. Boxee recently introduced a new architecture based on the XUL framework. Because Boxee will now use Firefox's core architecture, Hulu will see Boxee as "any other Mozilla browser so Hulu doesn't block the app.”  Hulu's latest attempt to thwart Boxee involves JavaScript scrambling.

 

Through the processing power of modern PC hardware, Boxee is able to decode high-definition video up to 1080p. Boxee is able to use Nvidia's VDPAU on Ubuntu Linux installations to accelerate HD content with the help of a system's GPU. However, Boxee does not currently support other hardware video decoding, so the entire load of the video decoding process is handled by the system's CPU which means that users need, by today's standards, a very powerful CPU to decode native high-definition videos encoded with a modern video codec like H.264.

 

Boxee source code is based on the XBMC Media Center project's code, and the Boxee developers contribute source code back upstream to the XBMC project. Boxee open source parts are distributed under the GNU General Public License, however Boxee's social networking layer library, libboxee, is closed source as it deals with proprietary methods of communication with Boxee's online back-end server which handles the user account information and social network communications between the users in the Boxee userbase.

 

Boxee also includes a built-in BitTorrent client, with a frontend for it integrated into the Boxee interface, and there are also Torrent links to legal BitTorrent trackers download sites available incorporated by default. Through Boxee's Python plugin system it is also possible for end-users to add unofficial third-party plugins to enable Torrent downloads from sites such as The Pirate Bay.

 

Social Networking Layers

 

The social networking component of Boxee is its major differentiator from other media center software, in several ways, as follows.

 

Boxee requires registered user accounts, which form a social network of fellow Boxee users. Users can follow the activity of other Boxee users who were added as friends, and can publicly rate and recommend content. Users can also control what media appear in the activity feed in order to maintain privacy. If a user recommends something that is freely available from an internet content service then Boxee will let others users stream it directly. If a user recommends something that is not freely available then Boxee will try to show metadata, and movie trailers if it is a movie that the user recommend.

 

The user's friends' Boxee activity feeds are displayed on the user's home screen, as is the user's own recent activity. Internet content is accessed through a sub-menu of each of the video, audio, and photo menu items, such as Video -> "My videos" and Video -> "Internet videos."

 

Boxee can also export a user's media activity feed to other social networking services such as FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr. The list of connection to such supported third-party social networking services is currently small, and this feature is one-way only, (it is for example not yet possible to monitor Twitter feeds from within Boxee), but this type of third-party integration is different from the way content sources as treated. Through FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr it is then possible from those third-party social networking services for a user to choose to post the Boxee activity feed to social networking sites such as Facebook, (currently through FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr apps for Facebook).

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review by . December 02, 2009
Boxee is hands down, the best media software that you can possibly have on your computer. It will enable you to save hundreds of dollars in cable bills every month and you will finally get all the programming that your cable provider promised you.   Boxee is free software that transforms your computer into a home theater which can actually aggregate all of the content you can imagine. You want to watch your favorite show on ABC, CBS, or NBC (Hulu)? Boxee provides easily navigable menu links …
Quick Tip by . April 20, 2011
The Boxee Bookmarklet is like Instapaper for online videos. If you see a video you want to check out later, just hit the Boxee Bookmarklet in your browser, and then next time you login to your Boxee software, your videos will be queue'd up for you. I generally prefer the XBMC experience over Boxee, but this feature is helping turn the tide back towards Boxee. Now I can queue up all my geek tech talks for viewing at home!   http://www.boxee.tv/watchlater
Quick Tip by . April 14, 2010
Boxee is the online video foray into social media. Find out what your friends are watching and share what you're watching.
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