When Jean-Baptiste Kempf joined École Centrale Paris as a student in 2003, he was tasked with helping run the university’s computer network. It included an unusual project: student-run open-source software that had been running on a couple of university servers for seven years. To students, the project was known as “Network 2000.” To the rest of the world, it was VLC media player.
Kempf—now the president of VLC’s parent organization, the nonprofit VideoLAN—is the person who helped guide VLC’s journey from student project to ubiquitous software. (VideoLAN Client, the original name for the project, is where VLC gets its name.) On the surface, he’s laid-back, casual, and frank, though that belies a steely determination. As the person overseeing the project and its team, he sets the tone for VLC as a whole.
VLC is one of those quintessential pieces of software. An outstanding application.
One of the things I appreciate the most about VLC is that it demonstrates that you can make software accessible to the casual user w/o necessarily dumbing down the UI. Pretty much anybody can use VLC and its default interface makes it obvious even to the less technically-inclined user how it works. But then you can flip a pref and get access to all sort of bits and bobs only the most advanced users will care about. That’s great, I wish more software would work that way.