What Is Kodi Should I get It?

Kodi. Now that is a name I have not heard in a long time. The cord-cutting community used to throw Kodi and XBMC around as the end-all substitute for cable.

Kodi, at its core, is set up to allow users to organize digital media. In fact, it originally was built to operate on the early Microsoft XBOX in order to let users store and access video collections on the gaming device. At a time when purchasing digital media has almost completely replaced owning DVD’s and Blu-ray discs Kodi is actually in a position to thrive. Kodi can also sort of act as a clean and customizable home screen for Android and Android TV-based media players such as the Google Chromecast with Google TV, the Nvidia Shield TV or even a Fire TV device. Kodi allows users to access Android TV apps directly from inside of the program and place them in endless layouts.  And its ability to organize digital media. Whether it be music, video or even photos in multiple formats is nearly unmatched.

The reason that Kodi has never become that in the mainstream though is complicated. A large reason that you do not see it promoted in the mainstream, despite its availability on the Google Play Store and Windows store is that shadowy companies out of China sold interchangeable Android-based boxes that built elaborate piracy-powered setups using Kodi. Those boxes began to be referred to as Kodi Boxes and started showing up all over Amazon and other online marketplaces, even locally via fairs, malls, RV shows and more. Then all of a sudden it fell off the map. Kodi got dragged down under the weight of an aggressive turn of the tide against digital piracy and the fact that so many companies utilized the media player to facilitate their piracy made the program persona non grata on YouTube. Plus the rise of easy-to-use and TV-centric Android TV devices including the Amazon Fire TV brands began to dominate the conversation. Because of the stigma around the program, Kodi ended up being pulled from the Fire TV app store, and it never made its way onto the App Store or the Roku platform. The final nail in its popularity may well have been the supply line problems that have kept a number of products from China out of US warehouses. This led a number of since de-platformed YouTube channels to say that Kodi was dead!

The thing is that Kodi still very much exists. And I have been running across more conversations about it in the past few weeks than I have in a very long time. It is still free and downloadable to almost every platform people watch TV with. But should you get it? It all depends on what it is you want to do with it.

Piracy still drives the conversation
Whether the people behind Kodi like it or not the buzz around the program it is still very weighted towards the piracy community. Most of the time when someone says “My Kodi isn’t working anymore” they mean that some sort of app that they got from a developer outside of the actual official development community of Kodi (XBMC Foundation) has stopped working. Those people have nowhere to turn to for support when that happens. When someone recommends it to someone looking for a good movie app they are usually not referring to it as a way to organize media. They are using it to find it.

There are still developers who create interfaces meant to pull content from online sources onto easy-to-navigate interfaces. And they pull from sources that are constantly being sought out and shut down. This will continue to be the case. Will every source ever be totally shut down once and for all? Probably not. Despite the best efforts of organizations like the (Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment) or ACE, online piracy is still an active force online. ACE has shut down many an offender, especially ones foolish enough to brag about their ill-gotten wealth from the distribution of stolen content. But there always seems to be something else popping up like a game of whack-a-mole.

From a user perspective, I would never recommend trying to depend on the illegal distribution of materials as a primary source of content. While there are companies built to deliver even cable-like experiences using Kodi’s software they are built on a foundation of sand that can shift and collapse without warning. And the people who invest major money in products built to steal can find themselves stuck with a $500.00 Android box that can’t even deliver Netflix. Will it get you into legal trouble? I have never seen a high-profile case where people who accessed piracy faced penalties for it. The defendants in these cases are always those behind the distribution in the first place. What can cause trouble is if an ISP (your internet provider) picks up on some sort of illegal streaming. That can cause your internet provider to threaten to cut off your service, which is why so many sites associated with piracy advertise VPN services to hide the identity of those looking for such things.

Can you use Kodi without diving down a piracy rabbit hole? Oh most definitely. There have been many media center systems built around Kodi over the years to help organize movie and TV show collections built on legally purchased. Professional home theater integrators use it in high-end systems. And those who have used Kodi for that purpose swear by it. It is a free open source program that does all of the things it is officially advertised to do and more. And the fact that the official developers have disavowed themselves of the piracy associated with the product has allowed the format to be improved year after year.

Advocates for Kodi have always argued correctly that Google Chrome is just as easy to use to access pirated and other illegal content as Kodi. Torrent programs are found on websites around the world and the Android community constantly develops other apps specifically designed to steal and or distribute copyrighted content.

I have always looked at Kodi as an online tinker’s best friend. The program can let someone who knows what they are doing put together a system that looks like whatever they want it to. Kodi is really not a good or bad program as far as legality is concerned. The fact that it became the app of choice for digital piracy during the 2010s does not make it any more liable for piracy than tractor-trailer trucks are liable for people pulling out in front of them and slowing down are for serious accidents.

Just understand that if you are trying to jump in with Kodi to use it outside of what it is designed to do, there is no support to be found from the actual developers. There is no refund if you sign up for a piracy service and they don’t give you what you expected. But that is par for the course with anything not authorized to distribute content. But if you want to play with a program that can change up how you interact with your apps and video content Kodi is a fun way to do it.