We really don’t spend enough time pointing out and thanking those individuals and websites who make the entire XBMC experience possible by agreeing to be included as default XBMC addons and scrapers. Every time you turn on XBMC, browse your library, and navigate your media, you are almost certainly benefiting from the hard work and expense of not only Team XBMC, but also numerous others. The value of these services is truly immeasurable to the user experience. For this reason, we’d like to take this time to talk about the hard work of others.
One of XBMC’s earliest online content providers was TheTVDB. Back in 2006 and early 2007, the leading media center software for the PC was actually not XBMC (since XBMC had not yet been ported to the PC). Instead, in those days the major PC software was Meedios and Media Portal. Given XBMC’s memory limitations and the fact that we were all still several years away from the efficiency improvements that would make XBMC the beast it is now on embedded devices, Meedios and Media Portal were the primary platforms on which users could install fanart and really go crazy with the early artwork heavy skins of the time, like the original Aeon. TVDB helped to shape many of the rules we take for granted these days. For example, on the XBMC wiki, we have a number of examples of “good” and “bad” fanart, where “good” fanart has no vignetting and is left entirely clean, so that the skinner can do with the art as the skin dictates, rather than as the artist dictates. Such rules were originally created and enforced by the TVDB and revolutionized the way we interact with skins today. The TVDB was also the site behind thumbnails, banners, and other multi-format image work.
Since those days, media center software has only gotten bigger and more popular, with millions of new users every year. Meanwhile, TVDB remains a wholly crowd-sourced website with artwork licensed under the Creative Commons whose server costs and budget are based almost entirely on donations by users like you and me. Every time you scan your TV shows, you are almost certainly looking at artwork and show information that came from The TVDB’s servers. If you are as grateful as we all are, feel free to donate to the server fund.
As time went on, more and more forms of artwork arrived on the scene, until eventually TVDB was simply unable to accomodate all the different types of artwork people wanted included. Users wanted png-style artwork that could incorporate transparencies. In particular, they wanted what came to be known as “clearlogos” which are simply the logos of the show without a rectangular background or any other art. They wanted art for individual seasons. They wanted “clearart” which was typically the cast of a show without a background. Seeing a need, XBMC user Kode began adding clearlogos to his site “Lockstockmods.” As more and more art was submitted, it became clear that all this artwork was going to need its own website. And thus was fanart.tv born.
These days, fanart.tv hosts clearlogos, clearArt, characterArt, TV thumbs, Season thumbs, and show backgrounds. It covers TV shows, Movies, and Music. Indeed, fanart.tv’s most active section today is Music, with more and more album covers and artist thumbs being added every day. It does a little bit of something for almost everyone on the artwork front. And quite likely at some time or another, if you have browsed the artwork of XBMC, you’ve seen something that was originally hosted on fanart.tv. Much like TVDB, fanart.tv’s budget is based almost entirely on user donation, so feel free to donate here.
The MovieDb was created in 2008 with the limited goal of provided better high resolution posters and fanart for XBMC. Since then, it’s become a one-stop shop for posters, art, cast and crew info, trailer links, and more. Much like Fanart.tv and TVDB, TMDb is entirely crowd-sourced.
The Weather Underground (or Wunderground) is somewhat unique among our content providers, in that they are a for-profit organization who typically charges quite a bit to provide weather services to software like XBMC. As some of you may recall, midway through the Eden beta last year, we lost access to our previous weather service provider. Fortunately, the Weather Underground agreed to step in, wave the typical API fee, and act as a weather service sponsor for XBMC.
That is a mere sprinkling of the many websites that contribute to the incredible user experience that XBMC brings together. Other providers include TheAudioDB and MusicBrainz (for music), TheGamesDB (for games), and so many more, thanks to the remarkable work of an army of addon developers and coders.
One Last Group to Thank
There is one other group that we really need to thank: All of you users. Without your tireless efforts filling in all the missing data on all these crowdsourced sites, XBMC would be nowhere near as fantastic as it is today. Even if you can’t donate to various server funds, you can always contribute art, information, or reviews. In XBMC development, we are fond of the phrase “code welcome” to remind our users that XBMC is a open source, user-created project. While not everybody can code, almost everyone can provide a summary or a picture or a review. And already, countless thousands of you have already done so. Thanks so much for your efforts!
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