You may have heard of Kodi, a very popular app among the cord cutting set. But what is Kodi? Is it legal? As we'll see below, Kodi is a media center application and it is, indeed, legal. But there's so much more that you ought to know about Kodi, which is why we're put together this complete guide to the popular app. What Is Kodi? Kodi is a popular media center application. It's designed to help organize local and streaming content so that you can quickly and easily find something great to watch, listen to, or look at. Kodi is available for a wide variety of devices and platforms. You can download the program to your desktop computer and use it to watch video files you have saved on your hard drive, but you can also put Kodi on your phone, some streaming boxes, and even a Raspberry Pi. If you're having trouble envisioning exactly what a media center program would do, think about what you see when you turn on your Roku or open up iTunes. You see menus and icons that allow you to navigate to the content you want, whether it be music, movies, images, or any other type of media. That's what Kodi is trying to accomplish, too, and it does a great job at it. And because it's available for so many platforms, it allows you to use the same interface when selecting content on all different devices. Kodi is extremely popular, and its fans have found a wide variety of ways to use it. For instance, you can install Kodi on a Raspberry Pi, plug the Raspberry Pi into the TV, and voila – you have a $35 device that's a worthy competitor to a Roku or Fire TV. Or you can simply install it on your old desktop and have an easy way to play videos and music all from one app. What Is Kodi's Appeal? What Makes It Special? So we've answered the basic question – “What is Kodi?” – but we haven't really figured out the deeper question, which is something like “what is Kodi's special appeal?” What makes this app more popular than others? Why is Kodi so big? Well, first of all, it's very good at what it does. It's probably the single best pure media center application available, though it has some quality competition from media center/media server apps like Plex. Kodi is also extremely customizable. As we'll see in the history section below, Kodi has its roots in DIY culture. While it has grown much more user-friendly over the years, there are still plenty of settings and options for dedicated geeks to tinker with. And finally, Kodi is free and open-source. That means it's “free like coffee and free like speech,” to use an old phrase: you won't pay a dime to use the service, and you're also allowed to look at the code that makes it work. Access to the code means that other folks can make apps and programs that work inside or alongside of Kodi, expanding the powers that Kodi has – just as apps on your iPhone or Android device help you do more with the same old device. Of course, if anyone can make add-ons for Kodi, that means you have to be careful which ones you select. Kodi now approves certain add-ons and goes after illegal ones, making it far easier to avoid shady add-ons. But these add-ons have hurt Kodi's otherwise excellent reputation, which is why people sometimes ask: is Kodi legal? Is Kodi Legal? “Is Kodi legal?” is one of the most common questions about the app, and it has a very simple answer: yes. Kodi is 100% legal and 100% legitimate. You won't get in trouble for installing it, and it's safe to download. But if Kodi is so legitimate, then why are lots of people googling “is Kodi legal?” Why are there so many articles with that title? Why do we even have a section in this article called “is Kodi legal?” The answer is that, while Kodi itself has always been safe and legal, there has been some history of illegal add-ons being designed and installed by some less scrupulous Kodi users. Recently, Kodi has being working a lot harder to crack down on these rogue users. As we'll see in the history section, quasi-legal add-ons were very popular in Kodi's early days, but are dying out fast. And it's important to remember that you'd have to go out of your way to get your hands on these add-ons: Kodi doesn't come with any of them installed, and Kodi's recent efforts to ban them all make it pretty hard to get your hands on them. In short, if you're going to break the law with a Kodi add-on, you really have to be trying to do it. The best way to make sure that you're staying on the right side of the law is to install Kodi directly from the source. Some unscrupulous vendors sell devices with Kodi pre-installed on them – and sneak in a bunch of add-ons in the installation. If you see a vendor advertising a streaming box that comes “pre-installed” with Kodi and will let you watch “free movies,” steer clear – they're trying to turn you into an unwitting pirate. Kodi is taking legal actions against vendors that do this, so hopefully we'll be seeing less and less of them as time goes on. A History of Kodi Kodi is a program with a kind of unique history, and it's helpful to understand some of its background. When we ask “what is Kodi,” we're asking about a popular media center program – but we're also asking about a culture of open-source programmers, a history of DIY projects, and even (as mentioned above) some roots in the outlaw culture of the bad old days of content pirating. Remember the original Microsoft Xbox – the gaming system that debuted way back in 2001? Video game systems have always been computers of a sort, but more than any other system, the Xbox was really just a repackaged PC. So when people moved on to newer systems, it wasn't hard for clever DIYers to figure out how to run programs on their old Xbox systems. One of the most popular was the Xbox Media Center, which turned an old Xbox into a sort of prehistoric Roku. Xbox Media Center was an open-source project, the work more of dedicated hobbyists than of money-hungry corporatists. It grew organically and was soon available on other devices besides the Xbox. The app re-branded a couple times, first as XBMC (which hid the now-outdated “Xbox” part of the name in an acronym) and later to “Kodi.” In its early days, Kodi wasn't really out to stop you from downloading illegal add-ons. Add-ons that helped users stream movies without paying were ubiquitous and even available in the Kodi's repository (which meant they could be added through Kodi's own menu – a de facto endorsement from Kodi). Lately, though, Kodi has made great progress in combating the shady programmers who turn the great Kodi program into a tool for pirates. Kodi now has a list of approved add-ons and takes legal actions against pirates. What is Kodi's interest in these legal questions? Well, they don't want to end up in legal hot water because of the actions of others. On top of that, Kodi is seeing more and more competition in the media center space, and they don't want to be known as the app for the outlaw set. While Kodi has always been legal and safe, it's become increasingly easier for its more casual users to stay on the right side of the law – and that's great news for honest cord cutters. Learn More About Kodi: What Is Kodi Good For? How Does It Measure Up to the Competition? So what is Kodi? Well, now you know that it's a popular open-source media center application. We've laid out the basics above, but there is much more to learn about Kodi. We've covered the app extensively on this site – check out some of our popular posts to learn more! How to install Kodi on a Fire TV How to install Kodi on a Raspberry Pi How to install Kodi on a Raspberry Pi running RetroPie What is Kodi's (indirect) competitor, Plex? How does Kodi measure up against Plex?