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December 22, 2020

Happy Plexivus 2020

Well, shenanigans. It’s that time of year again. So of course, we’ve saved our longest blog for the shortest day of the year. Time for the reflectors to do their reflecting. Time for the pundits to take a step back and put things in context for the rest of us. Prime season to pen a listicle or two — they practically write themselves! (Note to self: 2020’s Top Ten Rocks to Cower Under… this is gonna be big!) But before we turn to what we did at Plex this year, here’s a video about all the things we did as humans this year.

Hindsight is 2020

Well, this ain’t your mama’s year-end wrapup. For one, let’s be honest, there’s almost no way your mama has been keeping close tabs on what we’ve been up to. And for two, I’ve got thirteen loaves of artisanal sourdough bread in the oven, so let’s let ‘er rip.

First, we added free movies for free

As of today, it’s been about a year since we launched our free, ad-supported Movies & Shows streaming. I know some Plex purists out there have cried foul saying we’ve lost our way, but it was a super important milestone for us, and believe me when I say it’s a tide that lifts all boats. We’ve made massive strides in this area over the past year, from signing on with premium content partners like Crackle and Popcornflix, to making sure we have a seamless integration with popular platform catalogs to help media lovers make their way to Plex for the first time. We launched an all new “Live TV” experience with dozens of live streaming channels serving up the ultimate lean-back-and-chill experience. Nonstop Bob Ross, anyone? If you haven’t checked it out recently, it’s definitely worth another look. The more the merrier, we say, and we’re betting a million or so new Plex-using friends would agree.

Next, we pimped pumped up Plex Pass

But we haven’t taken our eye off the proverbial ball. The streaming work is exciting and new, but we’ll never forget our roots. Our commitment to making Plex the best damned streaming app for your own media has never been stronger. Last spring was an especially weird time in the grand scheme of things. We launched our much-requested Skip Intro feature to great acclaim (it’s awesome, and you should probably pick up a Plex Pass and check it out), but something still felt… off. Everyone was on lockdown, no one knew what to expect, and people were missing their Plex movie nights and watch parties more than ever. So several of us pretty much dropped what we were doing to build Watch Together. It was an effort to restore some sense of normalcy and make it easier for folks to connect around the media they collectively love. It may not have cured the pandemic, but several of you have reached out to say that it’s helped in some small way, and we’re ever so happy to be of service.

Third, we flexed our plex (l)abs

This year also saw the official unofficial release of a couple of badass apps from Plex Labs. Labs is a kind of skunk works operation with Plex: a handful of passionate developers and designers working to build potentially awesome stuff that may be a little outside of the normal product roadmap. To that end, last spring we dropped a pair of apps for Plex Pass holders: Plex Dash and Plexamp. Dash is a server monitor in your pocket. Check out what’s playing at a moment’s notice, monitor your server bandwidth and CPU, and even do some light curation by picking artwork. Plexamp is an ultra-powerful, dedicated music player in your pocket (or your desktop). It’s designed to give you a pure, focused music experience while coyly tapping in to the very latest experimental tech the Plex ecosystem has to offer. If you’re a music fan, you owe it to yourself to check it out. If you’re not, you may be missing part of your soul, and you may want to get that checked out.

Fourth, we polished our platforms

There’s been tons of progress on all the platforms you care about, too — our Desktop app is more capable than ever, we launched with first class support for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, and we’ve completely overhauled our smart TV experience on most platforms to be buttery smooth and ready to stream your wildest dreams. Hachi machi.

Then we securely added some security

One thing we’ve heard a lot of requests for over the years is Two-Factor Authentication support (aka good ole 2FA), which we agree in the age of hackers hacking hackers, is pretty darn important. So we’re excited to deploy 2FA that helps you secure your accounts with a second confirmation device. A word to the wise: when setting up 2FA, it’s extremely important that you actually safely store your recovery codes somewhere separate from your authenticator app. Like in a password manager, a Trapper Keeper or in a copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment. If you lose access to the app and lose your recovery codes, then you will be locked out of your Plex account! Get the instructions here.

After that, things kinda got meta

We’ve been working on an overhaul of our Movie and TV metadata infrastructure, and we’ve released the first part of that in the wild. (If you haven’t already, you should upgrade your movie libraries! The new scanner and agent are massively faster and more accurate, and you’ll be setting yourself up for even more goodness to come.) Stay tuned for similar improvements in TV Land… Coming Soon.

Fortunately, we gave Grace

Live TV and DVR users should also rejoice that we’re transitioning our primary EPG provider back to Gracenote after a brief foray with TiVo… we made a bunch of other underlying changes at the same time, so it hasn’t been as easy as throwing a switch, but we’re confident a better experience is right around the bend. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the option for non-destructive commercial skipping and numerous other quality-of-life improvements, which have been released this year.

Then we got all toned

Another hot-off-the-presses (Plex Pass only, for now) feature has been hardware accelerated(!) HDR tone mapping — you no longer need to worry about keeping a separate library for your HDR content; rest assured the Media Server will do the right thing and allow all your clients to enjoy your media in a colorspace that’s right for them! Chromosympatico! (I made that up and spell check is angry with me.)

Finally, we buffed and waxed our buns off

Last but definitely not least, we’ve been quietly working on lots of stuff under the hood to make sure this engine keeps humming along smoothly. Our build team, the unsung heroes of this operation, were faced with a task to bring our toolchain and dependencies up to date across every app and platform that we support. No small feat, but they’ve carried it out with panache. We also took care of some much needed infrastructure updates (please don’t ask why it took so long to retire TLSv1.1… the answer might embarrass us…).

Here’s to a (radically) new year

So there it is. Who of you out there had “Plex finally retires TLSv1.1” on their 2020 bingo card!? Who’s sick of people asking whether you had stuff on your 2020 bingo card!? (I personally had murder hornets under “G,” but that was just a lucky guess…)

I guess that about does it. It’s been a weird year, but it’s one that we’re pretty proud of in our little corner of the mediaverse. Please, be safe, eat too much tofurkey, watch too much Plex, and we’ll see you on the other side. Cheers!

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Happy Plexivus 2020 is a premium feature and requires a Plex Pass subscription.

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Plex Media Server is the software that allows you to stream your content to all of your devices, anywhere.

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