DVD Jon Gets Into Google Code

A Norwegian programmer who calls himself DVD Jon has tweaked Google’s new Video Viewer application to make it play clips that are not on Google’s servers.

Google launched the new tool on Monday as part of a Web-based video search service to let consumers use keywords to search its indexed video database.

Google restricted its Video Viewer, which is based on the open-source VLC player, to play only files that are stored on its servers. However, on Tuesday Jon Johansen, A.K.A. DVD Jon, posted code on his Web site removes the restriction. The code requires a .Net runtime to work.

This is the notorious Johansen that made a name for himself a few years ago after releasing software to crack copy protection on DVDs, hence the alias DVD Jon. The hacker has also received attention from the media for reverse engineering encryption in Apple Computer’s iTunes music software.

Google’s Response

Google could not immediately be reached for comment. The Internet company, however, did confirm Johansen’s claims in a statement yesterday. Google said the code was not a hack and did not in any way compromise Google’s systems.

“This modification of Google’s open-source video viewer does not compromise the integrity and security of content available from Google Video in any way,” Google said.

Google is warning people not to install Johansen’s software on top of Video Viewer. The company said, “it could result in security vulnerabilities on their computer and may disrupt their computer’s ability to access Google Video.”

No Harm, Despite the Foul

Search Engine Watch analyst Chris Sherman told TechNewsWorld that the Google incident is merely DVD Jon’s latest means of “showing off.” Sherman doesn’t expect the incident to make a major impact on Google’s video efforts.

“Right now Google is only making available free video,” Sherman said. “So there’s no risk, at least at this point, of someone seeing, viewing, or hacking proprietary content.”

Analysts said there are likely two reasons why Google is not yet making paid content available. First, the company does not have its payment mechanism in place. Second, Google has a tradition of releasing new software in beta for consumers to test so the company can fix any known bugs before launching the final version.

More Powerful than DVD Jon

“Look at what’s happening with this,” Sherman said. “You’ve got the entire Google engineering staff versus this one hacker. Google is probably going to be able to take care of the problem pretty quickly and easily.”

Sherman notes that Google is using an open-source platform that allows the company’s developers to make changes quickly. In addition to the application’s beta status, he said the coding is ultimately in Google’s favor.

“I don’t see the DVD Jon incident as a big deal. Google simply will not risk angering the people that are providing content for its service,” Sherman said. “They will fix it, or if they can’t fix it they will implement another solution that would be far more robust.”

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