It’s wasn’t too long ago that my computer was communicating with this vast network of servers we call the internet via a series of clicks, beeps, and squawks screamed over phone lines that were installed over fifty years ago. The bandwidth was barely enough to be able to support the transfer of ASCII art, much less streaming video. Forays into downloading large files were largely Sisyphean: any hiccup or minor solar flare would cause a disconnection. In fact, let us take a moment to remember those who were slain for the crime of picking up the phone to make a call while I was downloading Quake from a spotty Indonesian FTP server at ~6K/second. In my defense, the download was at 98%.
Now, we’ve got more bandwidth than we know how to use. My desktop computer just sits there between downloading webpages, a high-speed information superhighway with big, wide, empty lanes. It’s like using a nuclear warhead to open a jar of pickles. Every so often I download a clip of “The Daily Show” or an antivirus update, but otherwise my internet connection just sits there, bored, amusing itself by idly tossing a network packet back and forth from between my router and my ISP. A whole world of information and media at my fingertips and yet I still rent movies through one of those DVD kiosks at my supermarket. That is, until I found out about MovieDiver.
At MovieDiver you can watch movies online for free. They have over 5,000 movies to watch, with many of them being recent releases. The movies that you watch online are relatively low resolution (still crisp enough to enjoy, though), but MovieDiver also offers movie downloads for just $1.99. Movies you buy can be downloaded in a variety of formats that can be played on your computer or any of your new-fangled multimedia-capable gadgets like your iPad, iPhone, or Blackberry. You can purchase credit for your account starting at $19.95, but the more credit you purchase the more free money they throw at you. Buy $29.95 in credit and you get $10 free, or buy $49.95 in credit and get $20 free, which is a very good deal.
If you’re familiar with OnRead, then you’ll feel right at home on MovieDiver. Like the books at OnRead, the movies here are organized primarily by genre, but you can also sort them by country (which seems to indicate where the movie was filmed rather than where it was released) or the year the movie came out. There doesn’t appear to be any sort of Digital Right Management going on, so you can do virtually whatever you want with the files after you download them (within reason, of course). And while the movies are the star attraction at MovieDiver, you can also choose from a smattering of excellent television shows like “Firefly”, “Twin Peaks”, and “House”.
From the front page you can see which movies other users are currently watching and join in within a few seconds. I like this feature because it lets you know immediately what’s popular. Currently, 37 people are watching the action-adventure flick “Stealth”, while 33 are watching the historical film “Elizabeth”. It’s a small aspect of the site and easily glossed over, but I like it because it shows a sort of interconnectedness between people.
The website requires registration if you plan to buy any movies, but it’s quick and painless. You supply a username, password, and email address; no phone number or address required. The layout of the site is clean and it’s easy to search for movies. If you want to watch free movies online, no registration is needed; just a click on the movie of your choice, scroll down the page, and start watching.
I’ve got some fond memories from my childhood that center around certain films and it’s pretty great to be able to, within just a few clicks, watch such classics as “Labyrinth”, “The Dark Crystal” or “Back to the Future”. If I’d wanted to watch these movies before I discovered MovieDiver, I would have had to scour old video stores for the titles and dust off the VCR or order the movies for some ridiculous cost online.
It should be noted that the MovieDiver website is not safe for work. Not because of any sort of inappropriate content, but because once you start browsing and watching movies, you’re not going to be able to get back to work. I’m aware of how corny this sounds, but let me give you an example. I decided to start out my review of the MovieDiver website by watching a movie all the way through yesterday, just to test it out. I started off with “Coraline” (I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan), then watched “Back to the Future”, and then couldn’t resist watching “Return of the Jedi” once I found out that I could. At that point it was well past 1am and my wife had gone to bed. Even though I had to wake up early this morning to run errands with my wife, I started up the “Firefly” series. After I upload this review, I don’t foresee much else getting done today. Thank goodness I’m not a scientist trying to cure diseases.
Put that overpowered and underused broadband connection to work and watch some great movies at MovieDiver. The movies are free to watch online, cheap to buy, and you can put them on your favorite gadgets and take them with you wherever you go. What could be better? Beware, though: it’s easy to become distracted by so many excellent titles-OH MAN, THEY’VE GOT BLADE RUNNER?!
MovieDiver took a dive of its own, never to be recovered. They succeeded in failing, which is half the battle. Let’s hope they win the other half next time. (Succeeding at succeeding…)