Plex (software)

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Plex vector logo.svg
Developer(s)Plex, Inc.
Stable release / 31 October 2018; 17 days ago (2018-10-31)
Preview release
Operating system
Platformx86, ARM
  • Server:
    90–105 MiB (compressed, depending on the platform)
Available in
Alexa rankIncrease 1,159 (September 2017)[2]

Plex is a client-server media player system and software suite comprising two main components. The Plex Media Server desktop application runs on Windows, macOS and Linux-compatibles including some types of NAS devices. The server desktop application organizes video, audio and photos from a user's collections and from online services, enabling the players to access and stream the contents. There are also official clients available for mobile devices, smart TVs, and streaming boxes, a web app, and Plex Home Theater (no longer maintained), as well as many third-party alternatives.

Plex sells a premium service called Plex Pass, with features like synchronization with mobile devices, cloud storage integration, metadata and matchings for music, support for multiple users, parental controls, live TV and DVR, trailers and extras and cross-selling offers.


Plex began as a freeware hobby project in December 2007 when developer Elan Feingold created a media center application for his Apple Mac. He decided to port the media player XBMC (now known as Kodi) to Mac OS X.[3] Around the same time, Cayce Ullman and Scott Olechowski—software executives who had recently sold their previous company to Cisco—were also looking to port XBMC to OSX, and noticed Feingold's progress via XBMC online forums. They contacted him and offered support and help with funding. Feingold, Olechowski and Ullman formed as a team in January 2008, and founded Plex, Inc. in December 2009.[citation needed]

The team released early versions of the port, which they called "OSXBMC".[4] Their purposes were to bring to the project a complete integration to the Mac.[3]


The developers worked on the XBMC project until May 21, 2008. Due to different goals and vision from the XBMC team, they shortly forked the code to become Plex, and published it on GitHub. The code was kept roughly in sync with the Linux code.[5]

The new name was announced on July 8, 2008. Ullman came up with the name Plex² or Plex Square, due to the unavailability of, and the availability of Feingold suggested Plex² was too unwieldy and the single word, Plex, was ultimately chosen because the "plex" suffix evokes "comprising a number of parts".[6]

The team began to work on a media center component to aggregate not only local content but also to bring together web-based multimedia services. The new library system was redeveloped from scratch.[4][7]

The CenterStage UI group, a team aiming at improving the home theater PC UI interface, teamed with Plex to develop the idea further.[8][9][4]

Relations with content companies[edit]

Plex initially developed applications for services such as Hulu and Netflix. Hulu deployed "counter-measures" by creating changes deliberately to prevent Plex from parsing their HTML. Netflix and Hulu services are no longer officially available with Plex.[citation needed]

The relationships with content companies were not completely adversarial. Some companies contacted Feingold to add their content to Plex, including music streaming service Spotify.


To make the project viable, the team looked to bring the Plex experience to other devices, without the need for users to dedicate another computer as a HTPC.[3][10]

In December 2009, the project evolved into a commercial software business owned and developed by a single for-profit startup company, Plex, Inc., a U.S.-based high tech firm that is responsible for the development of the Plex Media Server and media player app front- and back-ends, its client–server model, all accompanying software under the Plex brand name, as well as the exclusive, copyrighted, proprietary parts, whether distributed on its own or as a third-party software component in products manufactured via a strategic partnership. Elan Feingold, Scott Olechowsi and Cayce Ullman were the three founders, with Ullman and Feingold taking on full-time roles as the CEO and CTO, respectively.[11][12]

At that time, Plex had 130 apps, the most popular of which were Apple Movies Trailers, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, MTV Music Videos, BBC iPlayer and Vimeo. In an interview for TechCrunch, Feingold declared Plex apps had been downloaded about 1 million times.[4][13]

In 2011, Ullman resigned as CEO and left the company.[14][15] Keith Valory became the new CEO in February 2013.[16][17]

In 2014, Plex raised $10 million from the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. In an interview at CES 2014, Scott Olechowski, Plex Chief Product Officer, added that Plex was considering eventually adding paid music downloads, or teaming up with a music subscription service, to give users a chance to grow their music library. These partnerships, like the one with VEVO, were costly for Plex, which led to fundraising from Kleiner Perkins.[18]

As of July 2016, Plex has 65 employees.[19]

Plex Media Server[edit]

Plex Media Server (sometimes called PMS or PMS Software[20]) is the back-end media server component of Plex. It organizes audio and visual content from personal media libraries and streams it to their player counterparts, either on the same machine, the same local area network, or over the Internet. It can run on Windows, macOS, Linux, FreeBSD, NAS devices, or on Nvidia Shield TV.[21]

Introduced in 2009, Plex Media Server was originally called Plex Media Center and was based on Kodi, formerly known as XBMC. Plex Media Center's source code was initially forked from XBMC on May 21, 2008.[4][5] This fork continued to be used as a front-end media player on Linux for Plex's media server back-end until Plex fully replaced it with a proprietary version in October 2015.


Plex Media Server can acquire content from sources such as iTunes, iPhoto and Aperture.[22][23][24]

The video library, a key feature of Plex, uses one of the Plex metadata databases. It allows for the automatic organization of video content by information associated with the video files (movies and recorded TV shows) themselves.

The music library is another of the Plex metadata databases. This library allows for the automatic organization of a music collection by information stored in the ID3 or M4A tags,[25][26] such as title, artist, album, genre, year, and popularity.[27] Plex Pass users also have the ability to access the whole music video catalog from VEVO.[28]


Using Agents, Plex automatically gathers metadata information and artwork for media stored in the Plex library. These metadata are scraped from sites including The Movie Database (TMDb), TheTVDB,, Freebase, CineMaterial, VEVO, and LyricFind[29] and OpenSubtitles.[30]

Media formats[edit]

Plex media player software is able to decode high-definition video up to 4K resolution, as well as 10-bit H.264 sources.[31][32] With the appropriate hardware, Plex also supports hardware decoding of H.264 video.[33][34]

Plex handles all common image file formats with the options of panning, zooming and slideshow with "Ken Burns effect", with the use of CxImage open source library code.[citation needed]

Remote access[edit]

Plex Media Server can be remote controlled via a web interface. As Plex does support NAT-PMP and Universal Plug and Play protocols, the connection should be automatically configured. While a Plex account is reported necessary to help redirecting port and improve availability, configuring the ports manually does work, but when the users accesses the remote web interface, login and password to a Plex account are required.[35]

On June 4, 2015, Plex announced all connections to Plex Media Server via its web app interface would be encrypted with SSL support.[36][37]


Plex Media Server can be extended using plugins and apps. These can be installed via a built-in library of free third-party plugins that allow Plex users to download content from providers including National Geographic, NBC, The New York Times,, Vimeo and YouTube.[4][38] As of July 2016, there are 131 channels available.[citation needed]

This app store is accessible either via a dedicated Plex Media Server section called Channels, or via Plex Home Theater, the old Plex Media Player.[39][40]


While Plex was initially a Mac OS X-only application, Plex Media Server is also available for Windows and Linux.

Plex first announced support for Linux on May 14, 2011, offering availability for Ubuntu 10.01, Slackware 13.1 used in unRAID NAS devices, and ReadyNAS (NAS from Netgear using Intel CPUs). Support for Windows was added on October 28, 2011.[12]

On October 19, 2016, Netgear released the Nighthawk X10 AD7200 router, the first commercially available router with Plex Media Server built into the router administration interface.[41]

Player apps[edit]

Player apps are Plex's front-end allowing the user to manage and play music, photos, videos and online content from a local or remote computer running Plex Media Server.

Plex Web App[edit]

Plex Web App: Users can manage their libraries, server settings, and watch content from this browser-based interface

Plex released a web UI for all users on November 16, 2012.[42]

Plex Media Player[edit]

Plex Media Player, announced on October 20, 2015, uses hardware acceleration for a consistent user interface across all devices.[43] While Plex Media Player is reported to be open source and its code available on GitHub as GPLv2,[44] not the whole software is actually open source. Only the host parts of the application can be contributed.[43]

Plex Media Player is compatible with Windows 7 and upwards, OS X Mavericks and upwards, embedded platforms like the Raspberry Pi 2 and Intel NUC,[45][46] with some Linux compatibility.[47][48]

Plex Home Theater (discontinued)[edit]

An example of the TV Episode interface on Plex. Includes fan-art background

Previously known as Plex Media Center, Plex Home Theater[49] was the software component used as the front-end media player for Plex's back-end server component.

The old and now obsolete Plex Home Theater is still distributed as open source under the GNU General Public License (GPL), with source code on GitHub.[50]

On October 28, 2011, support for Windows was announced for Plex Home Theater, which brought integration with Windows Media Center.[12]

In October 2015, Plex Home Theater was discontinued in favor of the Plex Media Player.[51]

Amazon Fire TV[edit]

Plex announced an application for the Amazon Fire TV, the same day it launched on April 2, 2014.[52]


On February 16, 2011, six months after the iOS app release, Plex announced its Android application.[53]

On June 25, 2014, support for the Android TV platform was announced. Features specific to Android TV included a redesigned home stream and voice control support.[54] The Android TV application can run on the Nexus Player.[55]

Apple TV[edit]

With the fourth generation of Apple TV, third-party developers could write their own applications, removing the main limitations of previous models. The app received text based subtitles support on December 23, 2015.[29]


On March 13, 2014, Plex announced free support of Chromecast in its iOS and Android applications.[56]


An iOS application was released on August 30, 2010 and provided a way to use iOS devices to remote control a Plex Media Server and view media on the iOS device.[57]

In March 2011, the iOS platform received a massive UI refresh. New features included grid views, improved UI around channels, removing second level menu and replaced by filter list. Support for TV Out, AirPlay, multi-part media, image caching, subtitles and audio stream selection were added.[58]

On November 19, 2012, the Plex Pass feature Mobile Sync was implemented on iOS.

On August 10, 2015, Plex announced a complete rewrite of the app supporting the new features of Plex Pass like Mobile Sync, Cloud Sync, Plex Home, Plex Mix and music and video extras.


On September 2, 2010, Plex announced a partnership with LG to integrate the software component into LG 2011 NetCast-enabled HDTVs and Blu-ray devices.[10][14][59] Only NetCast models from 2013 and models running webOS were supported.[60]

Opera TV[edit]

An app for Opera TV was announced on December 12, 2014. Plex was the first personal media organizer to join the Opera TV Store.[61]


Plex announced their apps for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 on December 17, 2014.


On May 3, 2011, Plex announced a client app on the Roku, available by installing the Plex private channel.


On August 3, 2012, Plex announced support for Samsung TV and Blu-ray players.[62] Samsung Smart TV and Blu-ray players are supported.[63]


On July 20, 2016, Plex announced product support for Sonos devices.[64][65][66]


TiVO DVRs have a Plex app from software version 20.4.7a or higher.[67]


On October 15, 2014, Plex announced a partnership with VIZIO in order to have rights to release a Plex application on their devices.[68]


On March 30, 2012, Plex announced the availability of Plex for Windows Phone.[69]

On December 4, 2012, Plex announced a client application for Windows 8 using the new Metro interface.


On October 5, 2014, applications for Xbox 360 and Xbox One were announced, supporting voice and gesture control of the devices.

Plex Pass[edit]

On August 28, 2011, Plex announced a paid version of the service, called Plex Pass, offer the following advanced features:[70][71]

  • Mobile Sync – Offers synchronization of movies, music and photos with mobile devices.[70][72] The synchronization supports filters, allowing users to sync everything, limit based on duration on movies already watched or media that has just been added. Previously known as PlexSync.[72]
  • Cloud Sync – Allows access to cloud storage providers. The feature was announced on October 14, 2013, with initial support for Amazon Cloud Drive, Box, Dropbox and Google Drive.[73] Support for Bitcasa was added on December 13, 2013.[74]
  • Plex Mix – Allows music playlists based on moods and lyrics.[28][75] Lyrics are synced across devices.[29]
  • Plex Home – A feature allowing advanced multi-users mode and fast switching between users[76][77]
  • Parental controls – Ability to restrict content available to underage users
  • High quality content – Access to high quality movie trailers, cast interviews, and other extras for movies in the library was added on July 31, 2014. The feature allows users to select the number and the kind of trailers to read.[24]
  • Camera Upload – Syncs photos from phones or tablets to Plex Media Server in order to access them from other devices
  • Live TV – Live broadcast TV available directly on certain devices. Additional antenna and a tuner are required.
  • Plex DVR – Allows recording of HD broadcast channels


On July 2, 2015, Plex revealed the machine hosting their blog and forums had been compromised. Personal information like IP addresses, forum private messages, email addresses and hashed and salted passwords had been accessed. This access was gained via a 0-day vulnerability in their forums software.[78]

Following this intrusion, Plex decided to migrate their forums to Vanilla Forums, reducing the sysadmin maintenance and security burden self-hosting their forums represented.[79]

On September 20, 2017, Plex announced a new privacy policy in which it was no longer possible for users of Plex to prevent their user data from being collected.[80] However, in a later privacy policy update, Plex CEO Keith Valory stated that they will generalize the playback data and offer users the ability to opt out of sending more specific playback information.[81]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]