There are a lot of ways to organize your media library, but there aren’t that many ways to do it for free. That’s why cord cutters are so pleased with Kodi, the media center program that’s both free and open source. But for every die-hard Kodi fan, there are a few other people that have to ask: what on earth is Kodi?
A media center by any other name
We know that “Kodi” might not sound familiar – but what about “XBMC?”
XBMC (short for Xbox Media Center) was a great media center application that was available long before the market became crowded with competitors. Designed for the original Xbox gaming system, the application was an easy way to organize media files and make them readily available for streaming. In the days before Chromecast and its competitors, having all of your media files on your gaming system was new and exciting – not to mention extremely convenient.
As their industry evolved, the developers behind XBMC kept up – and that meant developing an application that worked with more than just an Xbox. Xbox Media Center became XBMC and, now, “Kodi.” The ragtag independent programmers that started all of this have organized themselves and built a legitimate brand around their “Kodi Team,” though the program remains free and open source.
So what is Kodi?
Kodi is still, at its heart, a better version of Windows Media Center. It will organize your media files and make it easier to browse your collection of movies, television shows, and more.
But Kodi has added a lot of features since its XBMC days. You’ll have access to a range of optional apps, and the media center supports more than just video: you can use Kodi for your music and even for gaming emulators.
Kodi is cross-platform, meaning that you can download it for a wide variety of devices. You can put it on a computer (Mac, Windows, and Linux are all supported) or on your tablet or phone (iOS or Android). There’s also a version for your Xbox, if you want to get back to Kodi’s roots.
Kodi can use your home network to send your content to different screen, so a copy of a movie stored locally on your laptop can be viewed on your television or your tablet. This gives it a functionality that’s similar to Plex.
The best part? Kodi is free and open source. That means you don’t have to pay a dime, and that developers are free to use Kodi’s code to make a bigger and better version of the program (keep an eye out for new stable releases on Kodi’s website).
Make it yours
Back when Kodi was Xbox Media Center, it was a real “homebrew” application. Tech-savvy users tinkered away to create alternate versions, and troubleshooting was a bit more complicated than it was with Apple and Microsoft products (though perhaps less difficult than many tech-phobic users assumed).
The program is a bit more plug-and-play these days, but it remains highly customizable. Users can change the settings and appearance of the app with ease, and the entire thing is still open source – if you want to mess with the code, it’s available.
Ultimately, Kodi is still a more complex and customizable option than its competitors. That’s not to say that Kodi is especially difficult to use – it’s just that users seeking a foolproof plug-and-play solution might find it a bit daunting. But for power users and tech-savvy gamers, Kodi has a lot to offer. Its competitors can’t offer support for emulators the way that Kodi can, and Kodi’s open source nature has an innate ethical appeal to some. Kodi rewards tinkerers, and it’s one of the most exciting cord cutting tools available right now.
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