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September 25, 2018

Subtitles and Sunsets: big improvements and a little housekeeping

Hi! This blog post is dedicated to you, the devoted user. The one who’s been with us since early days, meticulously curating a few terabytes of media goodness. The one who would be happy to see us focus on stability and core functionality, and do a bit of house cleaning along the way.

For years now (li-ter-ah-ly) you’ve have been asking for a way to get subtitles without having to go back to the computer, submit to dubious popup ads, move the subs into place, refresh the media, get distracted by a half-eaten hoagie in the fridge. Sorry, where was I? Oh right, so we’re pleased to announce a feature which makes it so easy to find and enable a subtitle, you don’t even have to leave the couch. We use all sorts of smarts to find you the best matches in all sorts of languages (half of all Plexians are outside the US). This feature will be rolling out as Plex Pass Preview over the next few days as we fine tune it on Web Desktop, Xbox One, most LG TVs, Plex Media Player, Android mobile, and Android TV (iOS and Apple TV will follow up shortly).





Android TV

 

Plex has been around for the better part of a decade, and software has a way of behaving like your garage: You had every intention of keeping it neat and organized, but every nook is somehow filled with Star Wars figurines and Amiibos. So it’s critical to hold the occasional yard sale and get rid of all the accumulated cruft. It’s not an uncommon thing for a software company to do—Apple does it (et tu, OpenGL?), and so does Google (RIP Inbox, Reader).

The Plex ecosystem is quite large, and over the years, we’ve sometimes added things that might have made sense at the time, but didn’t age well. We’ve also been incredibly reluctant to take anything away from people who may be using a given feature. Or kill support for a platform with low usage or other challenges. And while any given case might not be significant, they can add up over a decade to a death by a thousand (paper) cuts. So we set out to do some house-cleaning…

We didn’t approach the process lightly; we looked over usage numbers and took into account maintenance costs and general customer satisfaction. In some cases, we have plans for a future in which a better replacement shows up. Other things, we’re just stabbing in the chest repeatedly with a wooden stake (and hoping it’s not a zombie). But the philosophy is the same—we want to focus our finite energy on providing awesome functionality that works great and makes the folks who use it happy. Without further ado, here’s the list of things we’re retiring:

💀 Plugins: This was not a decision taken lightly, as they’ve been around for a long time, and we’ve had good times both writing and using them. But bluntly, hardly anyone uses them (less than 2% of users), the ancient protocol they use is a continued pain for clients to support, and if we were to build the feature again, we’d do it very differently in this day and age. For utility-type functionality, we love standalone apps like Tautulli and believe this is a better approach. But don’t panic—while the Plugin Directory will soon be gone, you can still manually install plugins for the foreseeable future.

💀 Watch Later: There’s a small handful of you who still care about this feature – just enough to form a close-knit support group – and we’re super sorry (really) if this disrupts your daily bookmarking, but the feature is costly for us to maintain, and hard to justify in the long run.

💀 Cloud Sync: There is very low usage, and it’s also built atop an antediluvian sync engine, so if you rely on Cloud Sync for your day-to-day, things aren’t pretty. DM us a photo of your Cloud Sync library and today’s newspaper and we’ll buy you a beer? (no, not really).

Lastly, as we’ve previously announced, we’re shuttering our hosted Plex Media Server in the cloud (Plex Cloud) as of November 30. For those of you who relied on the service, please accept our heartfelt apology.

So with all that house-cleaning out of the way, what else have we been doing with our newfound laser focus (and laser-equipped sharks? shh… that’s Phase Two)? A lot of good stuff, actually.

😄 Making Sync Great Again: We realize that over the years, our vaunted (and premium) offline sync feature hasn’t always worked as reliably as we would have hoped. We decided to form a Seal Team 6 style group tasked with assassinating as many sync bugs as they could, working with client and server groups, as well as with forum users. The team has already made great headway on fixing some of the most annoying bugs, and you’ll begin to see the fruits of their labor across the next wave of updates.

😄 Making Players Play: We’ve convened a similar squadron of sauron-eyed swashbucklers to kill bugs in the new Android player engine. Yes, it’s awesome that it Direct Plays everything under the sun, but that doesn’t matter if it randomly stops playing Bachelor in Paradise right as Jenna is about to punch Jordan in the face. Also: that show is everything that is wrong about humans.

😄 The Sound of Music: Oh, and clamp down hard on your tuks, because we have some amazing music player improvements in the works. I don’t want to give too much away, but if it rhymes with schmapless, it may be coming to a platform near you. :mic-drop:

In conclusion, we’re working hard to improve our focus, spend time on things that matter the most, remove as many distractions as possible, improve stability of the core product, and launch more kick-ass features. Thanks for your feedback!


Barkley’s sole focus remains The Tennis Ball

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