Jeremy, Our Open Source Rockstar

Yeah, okay maybe “rockstar” is a bit self indulgent, but it’s not every day that an addon I made becomes an official part of a hugely popular, open source app with close to 50 million downloads. 

So, where did this all start?

I love hosting parties, and as a dedicated party host, I love nothing more than curating the perfect party mix. I even take a few song requests too (guests love feeling involved :P). But I really didn’t like having to run over to my stereo whenever a song, playlist or album finished.

At the time, I was using XBMC for my music player - a media centre for the original XBox. It had a web interface which could be accessed via my mobile phone, which was amazing to the 2007 me. The only issue was the UI - it was designed for larger screens like laptop or desktop computers.

With XBMC being open source, I started playing around with solutions to this UI problem. I hacked away at the code until it finally worked on my phone, thus kicking off my beloved relationship with the Kodi web interface. 

Hold up, what’s Kodi?

Kodi, previously known as XBMC, in short, is an award-winning free and open source media player and entertainment hub for digital media. Put simply, Kodi turns your TV into the ultimate media player with an interface specifically designed to function on a big screen, as well as control optimised for a remote control.

Think iTunes designed to work on your TV and controlled with your TV remote.

Open source is in my blood

As the Head of Production for Doghouse in Melbourne, I do this kinda thing day-in day-out. Then I head home and get stuck into it some more. I know I’m not the only one in the office who’s like this either. A surfer might say “only a surfer knows the feeling”, but when you work with open source software, only a developer knows the feeling...
As time (and various versions of my “phone remote control”) went by, XBMC released a new version with an official API via JSON-RPC. This provided a rather clean and documented method of interacting with XMBC. More specifically, what’s playing on your home entertainment system.
It’s around this time that I started creating the first web interface I felt worthy of actually sharing with the world - which I (somewhat unimaginatively) named XMBCWUI! It worked really well, and since I’d just been introduced to Google Music, I had a good source for inspiration for a web based player UI. 

It served us well at Doghouse, as we used it as the office jukebox.

But I still wasn’t happy, among other things, XBMCWUI only supported music. So I went back to the drawing board once again, this time with a grand plan of making the best XBMC Web Interface around, with support for movies, tv, radio and all the other goodies XBMC provided. 

And thus Chorus was born. I was so happy with Chorus that I submitted it to XBMC’s addon repository and for the last few years, has been enjoying roughly 30 installs per day.

An evolution Darwin would be proud of

What started out as a rough & ready app to save me some walking had now evolved into a behemoth web application with a huge user base. 

But my quest for the perfect web interface was still not over, I wanted more features, cleaner code and to take advantage of more modern tools available. Which brings us to today.   

Chorus2, a successor to Chorus. 

A complete rebuild using CoffeeScript, Backbone, Marionette and much, much more. The latest version has also brung possibly the most exciting part of my web UI saga, Chorus2 is now the official and default web interface for Kodi.

So out of the box, with no additional downloads, Kodi will have my addon as their default web interface. That’s huge. 

To put it in perspective, worldwide, Kodi has been downloaded almost 50 million times on Android alone and that’s not even taking into account all the other platforms it’s available on. So all those people will now have some of my code running on their phone, TV or computer. Can you tell I’m pleased as punch?
This is a big deal for me because I feel a bit like a proud parent seeing their kid graduate. It’s also a big deal for Doghouse because it’s further testament to our grassroots contributor spirit in the open source game.

You can read more about the features, how to install and view some screenshots over on the official Kodi blog.