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Plex is a client-server media player system and software suite comprising two main components. Additional functionality can be added through an app store and Plex Inc sells a premium service Plex Pass with features like synchronization with mobile devices, cloud storage integration, metadata and matchings for music, support for multiple users , parental controls , Live TV and DVR, trailers and extras and cross-selling offers.
Plex began as a freeware hobby project in December when developer Elan Feingold wanted a media centre application for his Apple Mac , but none of the existing players met his needs. Feingold was subsequently contacted by the XBMC team, and he, Olechowski and Ullman were brought rapidly on their team.
That integration comes from DVD playing, to energy saving features without hesitating to cut features out to benefit stability.
Given that the three of them came from professional and enterprise software background they were not satisfied with many of XBMC's engineering practices. They thought as a maturing project, XBMC had to improve its engineering practices, embrace software regression tests and provide end-user support with an improvement of bug reports.
The code was kept roughly in sync with the Linux code. The new name was announced on July 8, While the team received many suggestions from users Meteor Center, Media Hugger, etc. Then, the team began to work on a media centre component to aggregate not only local content but also to bring together web-based multimedia services.
The new library system was redeveloped from scratch. CenterStage was looking for developers and Plex was looking for designers, a perfect match. As that hobby was costing money for the required infrastructure for example , the project used donations and was selling mugs in order to lessen the burden of self funding. Like Boxee , Plex had applications for services such as Hulu.
Even if Boxee and Plex extensions were both written in Python, Feingold advertised Plex extensions were easier to write thanks to a new in-house framework developed by James Clarke, one of the main Plex developers. At that point, Plex had plug-ins also called applications. Plex has been listed as an officially approved Netflix app. With Hulu the situation was different. Hulu deployed "counter-measures" by creating changes deliberately to prevent Plex from parsing their HTML.
Netflix and Hulu services are no longer officially available with Plex anymore see Plugins for more info. The relationships with content companies were not completely adversarial. Some companies contacted Feingold to add their content to Plex, including music streaming service Spotify. In order to develop his software and make the project viable at some point in the future, the team's purpose was to bring the Plex experience to other devices, without the need for users to buy yet another computer or dedicate one as a HTPC.
They also recognized a Mac Mini was a barrier to entry and the Apple TV of that generation with its p limitations and closed hardware decoder  was an underpowered and too closed device.
They thought the evolution of video media consumption is to be able to watch whatever content we want, whenever we want time shifting and download with instant access to all pieces of media server ever created streaming. In December , the project evolved into a commercial software business owned and developed by a single for-profit startup company , Plex, Inc. A Christmas post indicated two new project contributors have been hired to Plex, Feingold specifying they are hiring, looking to grow the company in In an interview for TechCrunch , Feingold declared Plex apps have been downloaded about 1 million times.
Elan Feingold is the CTO. Cayce Ullman remained CEO and co-founder  until when he left the company. In an interview at CES , Scott Olechowski, Plex Chief Product Officer, added that Plex is considering eventually adding paid music downloads, or teaming up with a music subscription service, to give users a chance to grow their music library. As of July , Plex has 65 employees. It organizes audio music and visual photos and videos content from personal media libraries and streams it to their player counterparts, either on the same machine, the same local area network , or over the Internet.
Plex Media Server can be configured to index content in any directory on the machine it is run on, as well as to automatically acquire content from such sources as iTunes, iPhoto and Aperture. On March 14, , the plugin framework and the new library system called Alexandria were announced.
The advantages of the new library is the ability to scan and sort the media even if the websites adding additional metadata and content are down. If the user had a custom filename layout organization, he can write his own parser. Parsers work exactly like Plex plugins using the new plugin framework with XPath parsing and Unicode support. The video library is one of the Plex metadata databases and is, therefore, a key feature of Plex. It allows for the automatic organization of video content by information associated with the video files movies and recorded TV shows themselves.
The Library Mode view in Plex allows the user to browse video content by categories such as genre , title, year, actors, and directors. The music library is another of the Plex metadata databases. The music library feature received a major overhaul with a new release announced on April 30, That version allows for the automatic organization of a music collection by information stored in the ID3 or M4A tags,   such as title, artist, album, genre, year, and popularity.
If the metadata are not stored in the files themselves, the naming and organization of the music files are important. If the user has a Plex Pass account, the file naming and organization is not as critical as the music will be matched via sonic fingerprinting.
The music library feature brought instant metadata and poster downloads instead of waiting the end of the media scan. Music videos can be associated to the music library and lyrics or even interviews can be downloaded. The new library allows to rediscover the user's music with suggestions based on the most played media or the least played, but also with similar artists or genres.
The library also displays when and where artists are on tour. Plex recognizes extra content to a video or music file. In that regard the extra content must have the same filename as the media it complements, but have the basename suffixed with the kind of content it represents.
Depending of whether the file is linked to music or a video, the following suffixes are supported: Plex recognizes lyrics as the file formats LRC or as simple text file. Thanks to Agents , Plex can automatically gather metadata information and artwork for media stored in the Plex library. These metadata are fetched from the following sites using web scraping: Plex previously had IMDb access, but that access was removed when the Plex app for iPhone was released.
The mobile app usage was so widely used that the IMDb servers crashed. Plex received a letter from IMDb parent company Amazon 's lawyers who made it clear that that access was a commercial use and therefore Plex had to license it if they still wanted to use it.
Access to that database is not officially supported by Plex anymore, but community members have expressed the need to have it since Google decided to close its Freebase's service. Plex supports rich text in subtitles, and up to two subtitles channels are supported at the same time. Specifying subtitle preferences on an app will be reflected on the other.
As a media player software, Plex can play media from many sources: DVD playback is no longer supported. While Plex can access media recorded via digital video recorders DVR , it does not support recording the content itself.
Still depending on the offered features, DVRs can also stream content without recording it on a hard disk drive. Thanks to that combination of Plex and Tablo, it is now possible to watch over-the-air OTA streaming. Plex media player software is able to decode high-definition video up to 4K resolution , as well as bit H. With the appropriate hardware, Plex also supports hardware decoding of H. Plex handles all common image file formats with the options of panning, zooming and slideshow with " Ken Burns effect ", with the use of CxImage open source library code.
Content may be transcoded by the server before it is streamed, in order to reduce bandwidth requirements or for compatibility with the device being streamed to. This way, transcoding allows media to be available on the widest range of clients possible over any connection, while without transcoding clients would not be able to read the format because lacking the proper codec or because of performances restrictions.
During the media analysis phase, the Plex Media Server looks at certain attributes of the media resolution, bitrate, etc. This feature is called Direct Play. Another feature called Direct Streaming allows to change only the container without reencoding the video and music tracks if these are encoded in a codec the destination device can read.
Mobile apps have the ability to define the maximum bit rate the mobile connection is limited to, in order to force the server to reencode the piece of media, reducing filesize and avoiding lags when the piece media is being streamed. The transcoding feature is reported to not have a good downmixing of 5.
Plex Media Server can be remote controlled via a web interface. While a Plex account is reported necessary to help redirecting port and improve availability, configuring the ports manually does work, but when the users accesses the remote web interface, login and password to a PLex account are required.
The SSL connection was previously only reachable via the dedicated port , which provided secure authentication but lacked support for encrypting streams. Also, SSL is supported for both streaming and authentication, except in a few rare cases when a mobile server has been enabled on mobile applications. However, this SSL configuration is only valid for users who know how to generate a certificate self-signed or signed by a certificate authority and configure a domain name.
On June 4, , Plex announced all connections to Plex will be encrypted as soon the user has upgraded to at least 0. Plex also announced the user interface for the user's Plex Media Server will also be available via http: While the system looks trivial this is technically not the case. When the user connects to http: Since Plex could not ask users to acquire a domain name and a certificate just to watch movies over TLS, they had to provide the solution by themselves.
Each user domain name is prefixed by an IP address. Here is an example with the dig command:. The next step for Plex was to provide each user a certificate. Since each user can have several IPs and thus several Plex subdomains as mentioned above, a valid wildcard certificate was needed. As this would have been too expensive for Plex to register directly to a certificate authority a certificate each time a Plex user subscribes to a Plex account, Plex had to become a registration authority RA also called subordinate CA.
They choose DigiCert to partner with. This kind of offer is often called a private PKI. Plex Media Server can be extended using plugins, sometimes called "apps". These can be installed via a kind of "app store", a built-in library of free third-party plugins that allow Plex to download content from websites like National Geographic , NBC , The New York Times , Twitch.
While Plex channels are maintained and supported by community volunteers, only those in the Channels Directory are considered as stable. Even if Plex came from Kodi, these Plex plugins now use a proprietary plugin architecture.