The Christmas season is coming up, and people in the USA and Canada have recently been given another option to give as a gift for their loved ones. Namely, Disney Plus (stylized as Disney+).
Over the last decade, enticing "streaming" services have sprung up, offering amazing "deals" for access to hundreds or thousands of movies and TV shows from any of your devices. Sounds like a great deal! But is it really? Let's break down what exactly Disney Plus is, and what it really costs.
An Overview of Disney Plus
Disney Plus is the new streaming service offered by Disney. It offers access to thousands of TV shows and movies produced by Disney and its subsidiaries, including big name titles such as Marvel's Avengers and Lucasfilm's Star Wars. It also allows you to watch ESPN (which is Disney-owned) and Hulu.
They charge you $12.99 per month to use the service, which is comparable to Netflix.
What is Streaming?
Before I get into more details, I need to give you a basic picture of what "streaming" actually is.
A streaming works by sending the user a file to play in their browser or on an app, and letting per play it immediately instead of having to wait until it is downloaded. This allows users to avoid waiting for a lengthy download and to avoid buying DVDs or CDs.
Here is a simple example:
- The server starts to send a copy of a movie to the user's computer.
- The user's computer starts receiving it
- Certain software on the user's computer starts processing the movie, and displays it on the screen while saving the rest of it ahead of time.
So simply put, streaming is like downloading a movie without waiting for the download to finish. However, most of the time, there are a few catches in the process.
The Problems with Streaming Services
As mentioned in the last section, there are great benefits to streaming. It utilizes modern digital technology and theoretically enables users to conveniently watch what person wants, when person wants to. Unfortunately, many implementations of streaming have their major drawbacks.
A "streaming service" is a company that stores different kinds of digital works, including music, television shows, and movies, and sends them to customers via "streaming" technology. These services use the advantages of streaming technology to make people's favorite shows convenient to watch.
Streaming services have become increasingly prevalent over the last few years, and certain ones such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video have become quite successful. Users love the convenience it offers over physical storage mediums, and enjoy the large selection of media offered to them for a generally reasonable price. However, they almost never mention the problems with their services. Let's dissect the most common problems of streaming technology.
Firstly, most streaming services use Digital Restrictions Management to control what users can do with the media when it gets to their computers. This means that the user cannot do anything with the media except what the server wants person* to do with it. Most services use this to prevent people from watching it way non-approved by the service, and from saving the movie to watch later.
Secondly, most streaming services require the user to run a certain app to watch it (this is enforced with Digital Restrictions Management), even if another app or device supports watching that streaming service. Which means if you want certain features, a user must beg the service developer for them, and cannot develop it themselves or ask someone else to do so.
Thirdly, most streaming services require the user to identify themselves to use the service. They do not allow the user to pay even semi-anonymously through cryptocurrency. Thus a user cannot separate their watching habits from themselves, even for a free trial.
Fourthly, most streaming services impose terms of services and EULAs which go far beyond reasonable requirements. Sometimes they even forbid using certain devices1. They often make demands that say they can revoke service for you if you watch movies in an "unauthorized" way. These terms of services often say, "We can change this without letting you know, and you automatically agree to any changes."
These problems are extremely prevalent and interrelated. For example, DRM may enforce parts of their Terms of Service. As I said, most streaming services are unnecessarily set up this way. Well known streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Apple Music, Spotify, and now PureFlix all are designed to mistreat the user this way. This should lead us to consider the terminology we are using here. A "service" is meant to help or serve the person receiving it, but these "services" are working against that goal. In reality, they are doing a disservice to the user, thus they should really be called streaming disservices instead of "streaming services". After all, who does the "server" really serve?
Unfortunately, Disney Plus also includes many of the problems listed above into its streaming service. In this way it is not unique. It simply is a repetition of the old disservices against users. Even worse, it has some other disadvantages to other streaming services:
- Disney Plus used to restrict the user to a level that makes it incompatible with ChromeOS, Android, and GNU/Linux.
- Disney Plus accounts have been shown to be easily cracked.
Through Disney Plus, Disney uses its high power in the movie market to get people to use it even if they impose terrible restrictions.
Because of how much the Disney Plus disservice binds the user, I suggest a new name for it. Disney Minus: Disney movies, minus basic freedoms.
Due to the above problems, and Disney Minus's commitment against its users, I cannot recommend this disservice to any person. Those who care about their family should not pay for Disney Minus, nor encourage using it. Even though Netflix, Hulu, and the other disservices are bad, Disney minus is worse option, not a better one.
You may wonder now about all the movies and TV shows Disney Minus offers for you to watch. In answer, I tell you to go get a DVD from a rental store, or to stick to a "less bad" streaming service. Through that, you can get most of the movies available on Disney Minus.
To help counteract the problems of Disney Minus, I am soon going to start work on a new app that provides similar features (and possibly movies) without the restrictions. More information can be found on Codeberg
Thank you for reading. Please let me know about any typos or if any improvements in the text are needed.