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A conference give-away with the RealNetworks logo
RealNetworks is a provider of Internet media delivery software and services based in Seattlemarker, Washingtonmarker, United Statesmarker. The company is best known for the creation of RealAudio, a compressed audio format, RealVideo, a compressed video format and RealPlayer, a media player. The company is also known for its subscription-based online entertainment services like Rhapsody, SuperPass, and RealArcade, and for its media properties like and (which it operates in partnership with Rolling Stone owners Wenner Media).

RealMedia streaming files can contain RealAudio and RealVideo streams, and several other formats like SMIL.Helix DNA is their free software / open source media framework. Most of the source code (excluding the codecs) is released under various free software licences, like the RealNetworks Public Source License starting in 2003 and the GPL in 2004.


RealNetworks (then known as Progressive Networks) was founded by ex-Microsoft executive Rob Glaser in 1995. The original goal of the company was to provide a distribution channel for politically progressive content. It quickly evolved into a technology venture to leverage the Internet as an alternative distribution medium for audio broadcasts. Progressive Networks became RealNetworks in September 1997.

Company timeline:
  • April 1995: RealAudio 1.0 released (finalized June 1995)
  • August 1995: First live broadcast of a baseball game over the Internet between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees
  • October 1995: RealAudio 2.0 debuts (finalized April 1996)
  • September 1996: RealAudio 3.0 launches, with debut of Sheryl Crow's single "If It Makes You Happy"
  • October 1996: RTSP standardization initiative launched with Netscape Communications Corporation
  • February 1997: RealVideo debuts as part of RealPlayer 4.0 (finalized June 1997)
  • June 1997: RealPlanet.Com international content aggregation site launches with landmark cybercast of the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong.
  • July 1997: Broad technology and investment relationship between Progressive Networks and Microsoft
  • September 1997: RealSystem 5.0 debuts, adding support for Macromedia Flash
  • September 1997: Progressive Networks changes name to "RealNetworks", and files with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to become a publicly traded company
  • November 1997: Initial public offering of shares from RealNetworks (RNWK).
  • March 1998: RealNetworks acquires Vivo Software
  • April 1998: RealSystem G2 debuts. G2 was a complete rearchitecture of RealSystem, allowing development of plugins at all levels of the system. G2 was the first release to support RTSP, SMIL, GIF, JPEG, RealPix, and RealText.
  • July 1998: Rob Glaser testifies before the United States Senate regarding competitive practices of Microsoft
  • April 1999: RealNetworks acquires software maker Xing Technology
  • May 1999: RealJukebox 1.0 launched
  • November 1999: RealPlayer 7 launched, with Take5 daily programming service and MP3 support
  • January 2000: RealNetworks acquires NetZip
  • August 2000: RealNetworks rebrands GoldPass as SuperPass.
  • May 2000: RealSystem 8 debuts, with RealVideo 8
  • January 2001: RealNetworks acquires Aegisoft corp.
  • May 2001: RealArcade launches
  • July 2001: RealNetworks reduces staff by 15%
  • September 2001: RealOne Platform launched, including new subscription service
  • January 2002: RealOne subscription service passes 500,000 subscribers
  • April 2002: RealVideo 9 released
  • July 2002: Helix initiative launched, along with Helix Universal Server. Initiative includes plan to release substantial parts of proprietary technologies under an open source licence. RealNetworks also announced partnership with to support the free software Ogg Vorbis audio codec.
  • August 2002: RealNetworks reduces staff by 11%
  • October 2002: Helix DNA Client source code released under open source license
  • December 2002: Helix DNA Producer source code released under open source license
  • January 2003: Helix DNA Server source code released under open source license
  • August 2003: RealNetworks acquires's Rhapsody music service and renames it RealRhapsody
  • January 2004: RealNetworks announce RealPlayer Music Store as a response to iTunes Music Store
  • January 2004: RealNetworks acquires GameHouse
  • July 2004: RealNetworks reverse-engineers Apple Computermarker's FairPlay code, allowing songs from their online store to be played on an iPod. Starts a website at petitioning Apple to remove the lock-out from their products, but then removes the petition when many of the signers complain about RealNetworks' similar policies.
  • October 2005: RealNetworks and Microsoft settle lawsuit filed by Real in December 2003, which accused Microsoft of illegally leveraging its Windows monopoly to win customers in the digital-music business. Real receives $460 million to settle antitrust claims and another $301 million in cash and services to promote and distribute Rhapsody. Real's board grants CEO Rob Glaser a $2.9 million bonus for the settlement.
  • January 2006: RealNetworks provides unlimited downloadable movies through its co-branded Starz service with a 14 day free trial to encourage consumers.
  • February 2006: RealNetworks acquires Zylom for €17.2 Million
  • March 2006: RealNetworks announces that Cingular Video, Cingular Wireless, on-demand video services for mobile phones is powered by RealNetworks Helix media delivery and playback platform. Included in the announcement is reference to 80 other wireless carriers and 60 million handsets using Helix.
  • June 2007: Starz Movie service ends on June 14, 2007. All Superpass members are allowed the option to watch movies from the Superpass homepage.
  • December 2007: RealNetworks reduces staff by 10%
  • January 2008: Rhapsody service available on TiVo
  • April 2008: RealNetworks acquires TryMedia for an estimated $4 Million US
  • June 2008: Rhapsody MP3 store is launched, allowing purchase of most songs for 99 cents and albums for $9.99. Initial pricing fails to exclude boxed sets, but is corrected after 10 days.
  • June 2008: RealNetworks unveils new, web based version of the RealArcade service.
  • July 2008: Final Days of RealArcade 1.4 is announced, last day before the shutoff of 1.4 is August 5. All members of the service must upgrade to the new version in order to continue to use the service.
  • September 2008: RealNetworks launches RealDVD, software that allows users to save their movie collection on their computer.
  • December 2008: RealNetworks reduces staff by 7.5%

Music Store

In August 2003, RealNetworks acquired's Rhapsody music service, and renamed it RealRhapsody. It offers streaming music downloads for a monthly fee. In January 2004, RealNetworks announced that they are creating RealPlayer Music Store, featuring DRM-restricted music in the AAC file format. After some initial tries to push their own DRM scheme (named Helix DRM) onto all device manufacturers with the Creative Zen Xtra and the Sansa e200r as the only existing compliant devices, they sparked controversy by introducing a technology called Harmony that allowed their music to play on iPods as well as Microsoft Windows Media Audio DRM-equipped devices using a "wrapper" that would convert Helix DRM into the two other target DRM schemes.

The domain attracted at least 67 million visitors annually by 2008 according to a study.

Subscription services

RealNetworks was one of the pioneers of the streaming media, both in software and content. In 2000, one of the initial products, the download manager RealDownload, was already used for pushing small software, such as games, to subscribers' computers. On top of the subscription for RealDownload and using its RealVideo streaming technology, a service called GoldPass, including unlimited access for video snippets from ABC and movie previews, was offered to registered users for a $10 a month fee. . More content was added through deals with CBS for the reality show Big Brothermarker and NBA basketball.

In the next few years, RealNetworks went though an inclusive phase, adding content from CNN, ESPN . A deal with AOL saw RealNetworks offering, a music subscription service, to AOL subscribers and RealPlayer bundled with AOL's acquisition, the browser Netscape. GoldPass was rebranded SuperPass.

After the dot-com crash, RealNetworks cut most of the resources. Some of the content was lost, some was limited to local markets (e.g., Ministry of Soundmarker was available only to UK subscribers). With the increase in broadband usage, RealNetworks started offering live broadcasts of CNN International, BBC World, Al-Jazeera etc., separately for prices between $6 and $12, or bundled in the SuperPass for about $35 a month depending on the market. Between 2003 and 2006, SuperPass included, for European subscribers, unlimited access to UEFA Champions League full-length game recordings.

RealNetworks Vs. StreamBox

On Januaruy 20th, 2000, RealNetworks, Inc. filed an injunction against Streambox, Inc. regarding the aforementioned company's product designed to convert Real Audio (.rm) formatted filed to other formats.


On September 30, 2008, RealNetworks launched a new product called RealDVD. The software allows any user to save a copy of a DVD movie they own. RealNetworks is facing a lawsuit from the release of this software under claims that the software allows anyone to save a movie they do not legally own, or renting movies, ripping them and then returning them.

On October 3, 2008, the company announced that the software was not available to download due to the lawsuits brought against them.

On August 11, 2009, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that RealDVD violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and RealNetworks' contract with the DVD CCA. In the judgment, Patel maintained the preliminary injunction barring the distribution of RealDVD.


  1. Helix Community About Helix Community, Retrieved on 2009-08-07
  2. ZDNet UK (26 Jul 2002) MP3 alternative gets Real, Retrieved on 2009-08-02
  3. ZDNet UK (30 Oct 2002) RealNetworks reveals code in single Helix, Retrieved on 2009-08-02
  4. ZDNet UK (05 Dec 2002) RealNetworks opens more Helix DNA, Retrieved on 2009-08-02
  5. (February 1, 2006) RealNetworks, Inc. - Current Report, Retrieved on 2009-08-02
  6. ZDNet UK (11 Oct 2005) Real and Microsoft call a truce, Retrieved on 2009-08-02
  7. attracts 67 million visitors annually
  8. RealNetworks Launches Subscription Service
  10. Real Networks
  11. (January 18, 2000) REALNETWORKS, INC. v. STREAMBOX, INC. CASE SUMMARY, Retrieved on 2009-08-02
  12. The New York Times (October 1, 2008) Studios sue to bar a DVD copying program, Retrieved on 2009-08-02

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