has unveiled a closed beta of RealPlayer 11
, the first major media player that allows users to download online video from sites including YouTube
Users can download clips and watch them offline, or burn them to CD or DVD.
RealPlayer 11 has been in development for nearly three years, and supports most major formats including Real, Windows Media, Flash and QuickTime.
Clips are downloaded in their native format where possible, or saved in a new Real format dubbed Internet Video Recording (.ivr). Support has not yet been confirmed for DivX and Xvid.
"The new RealPlayer gives consumers more control of internet video than ever before," said Rob Glaser, chairman and chief executive at RealNetworks.
"By floating a 'download this video' button next to video seen on thousands of sites, RealPlayer makes it one-click simple."
The plug-in currently works with Internet Explorer and Firefox, but the company has promised support for other platforms and browsers.
"Time-shifting of recorded or downloaded content is a natural next step in the progression of online video distribution and consumption," said Michael McGuire, vice president of Gartner
"For online video fans, the ability to capture, store and forward content is going to be transformative."
The original URL will be embedded into the downloaded video allowing users to direct others back to the original source of the clip.
However, the new functionality raises serious piracy implications around being able to download and save clips from the web.
Piers Heaton-Armstrong, general manager at RealNetworks, said that the firm has been working with DRM developers to ensure that users will not be able to save clips with DRM embedded.
Real is also working on future versions of the player to allow easy transfer of clips to major portable media players, and to allow scheduled and automatic downloading of clips based on channel selection and other criteria.
A beta version of RealPlayer 11 will be available to the public at the end of June as a 13MB download. Real hopes to take the product 'gold' in August 2007.