MediaPortal and Extensions are closely tied together. I honestly can't imagine MediaPortal without them. They come in a huge variety, starting with small tools that help you with specific HTPC related tasks, or offer you additional graphics, up to highly sophisticated ways of managing your media, which make even commercial applications shiver.
Extensions are as old as MediaPortal itself. In the early days they were little more than a dll or zip file, often only a few kilobytes, and were shared informally in the forums.
Over the years they grew! Today we have very large extensions that are well above 50 megabytes.
Installation was always quite a challenge, which sadly meant that many users were not able to benefit from extensions.
So, one day dukus set out to change that. Over several years he created the "MPE" file format and the "MP Extensions Installer" as well as the "MP Extensions Maker" we have today. This was a huge step toward providing easy access to extensions for everyone, not just the geeks.
Dukus laid the groundwork well, but sadly MPE never reached full acceptance among extension creators, for various reasons. It also never received the attention it requires. or deserves, within the Team.
In the end, it was users who suffered most. Thus, during the last six months, I have been wondering how we can change that, how to make MediaPortal Extensions better for users, authors and Team MediaPortal.
I came to the conclusion that there isn't just "one" part we have to fix. We need to touch every area related to Extensions in order to create a modern, flexible, fast and easy to use solution.
This means that we need to make changes to the online repository on our homepage where extensions are stored; the stand alone tools (MPE Installer & MPE Maker) which help create and manage extensions; as well as MediaPortal itself to be able to find, install and update Extensions without exiting MP.
The biggest part of the work will be the creation of MPEM, the stand alone "MediaPortal Extensions Manager" application, which replaces (MPE Installer & MPE Maker). My vision is a modern looking, flexible, fast and easy to use software.
The big question everyone will have in their head now will surely be "When will it be done?".
The current answer is "Never".
The vision I have for MediaPortal Extensions is a large and complex one. It touches many different areas and thus will require many dedicated developers with different skills and expertise–developers (php, java, c#, maybe even WPF, etc.) we simply do not have (yet) in our Team!
My hope is this design concept will spark a fire inside the community,
and attract developers who share my belief that extensions are that important
and deserve that level of attention and dedication.
If you are curious about my vision, please head over to our wiki where I published the entire design document, including many more mock-ups of MPEM and how it would work.
To close this article I want to thank everyone involved in the creation of the design concept, especially Joostzilla who was so kind to turn my original mock-ups of MPEM into something stunningly beautiful!
There are still many details we need to work out. I am looking forward to discuss these with the developers involved in the process.
If you are interested to make this design concept become reality, then please contact me in the forums, or write in the discussion thread.