After launching on the web a few weeks ago, I've finally received an invitation to use the new Voddler web client. Note that Voddler still only works in Scandinavia at the moment but a Europe-wide launch is expected by the end of the year. However, the new web client will certainly make it easier to reach a wider number of people and introduces some much improved navigability and features to Voddler.
Voddler started out as purely a desktop client but the company soon decided to integrate it with a web based service after numerous security breaches and complaints about usability from users. However, I'm still not sure if I buy the security breach excuse for taking it offline as films are still streamed into the Voddler desktop client from the web and therefore presumably can still be hacked. The reason you can't watch films directly in your browser is because the desktop client allows you to connect to the Voddler P2P network and therefore watch films in far higher quality than would be possible within your browser alone.
In the few weeks the service has been offline while developing the new web client, Voddler have been able to add far more movies and documentaries (and even TV shows) so the choice is definitely better.
The Voddler website has been expanded considerably. Now you can browse films directly on the website:
See the most popular films and the most recently added:
See which are the most popular premium films plus the most recommended:
And even see what people are currently watching via a new "Live Blogging" feature:
Each film still has a handy synopsis, trailer and average user rating:
There's now integration with Facebook and Twitter and a much improved review system where you can clearly see user movie reviews and add your own:
When you've selected a film to watch on the web, you'll be asked to create a username which is a new requirement. This is to identify you across the Voddler network for posting reviews etc:
If you haven't installed the Flash web client or the desktop client by this stage, Voddler will prompt you to do so. If you're installing Voddler for the first time, it will take you through a quick setup wizard which checks the suitability of your connection. The test takes a few minutes but if you've got a 2.5Mb connection or better, you should receive the green light.
When Voddler launches from the web client into the film it still goes straight into full-screen mode. This annoyed me in the original desktop version and it's a bit disappointing to see that it hasn't been changed. I would prefer to have been prompted whether I wanted to open in windowed or full-screen mode but you can revert back to windowed mode by pressing Escape.
Controlling Voddler is now much easier thanks to integration with the mouse for stopping, fast forwarding, activating subtitles etc.
You can only access this controller once the adverts have stopped playing, although you can access your desktop by pressing Escape while the adverts are playing. I find you really have to fight for control of your desktop because the viewer tries to revert to full screen almost instantly after you press Escape.
The format of films remains the same. You have to sit through a maximum of 5 minutes of adverts at the beginning before the film starts. From here, the desktop client takes over and you no longer need to access your web browser again.
If you still prefer to access Voddler via the desktop client, you can do without using a web browser at all. If you watch a film via the desktop client, you are presented with three options on a black background - gone are the iconic movie still backgrounds that were in the first release:
The options are Movies, Documentaries and Quit. They have done-away with the rather confusing Settings option and separated Movies and Documentaries from the start which is a good move.
When you click Movies, films are categorized by Premium, Recommended, Movies (by genre) and TV Series.
Finally, they've added a useful Filter which allows you to organize films by Free and Premium content.
The choice of films and documentaries in Voddler isn't fantastic (a counter in the top right of the homepage said there were 798 movies, 171 TV shows and 194 documentaries at the time of writing) but there are enough major titles in there to keep you busy for a while and hopefully this will increase. Remember also that there's also a Premium service where you pay in the region of $3 to watch a film.
Overall, this latest release of Voddler is certainly an improvement because it integrates with the web and mouse much better. However, there were times when films simply wouldn't start - especially from the web client - and I think some improvements could be made to the way films are categorized and organized and to the usability here and there. It's also evident that as before, Voddler will have to increase the quality and quantity of films very rapidly if it is to be successful.
All in all, though, Voddler's new web client is definitely a step in the right direction.