Interview with the Founder of Opensubtitles

Do you want a subtitle with that torrent? Then Opensubtitles.org is probably the place to be. The website is only a couple of months old, but already one of the most popular subtitle resources.

We had the chance to talk to Brano, the mastermind behind the subtitle startup, and ask him some questions about his motivation to start the site, why it’s so special, and future projects.

TorrentFreak: Where are you from, and what do you do when you aren’t running Opensubtitles?

Brano: First of all, I’d like to say hello to your readers and all movie fans out there. OK, back to your question. I am from Slovakia, currently working in a company as a SAP (ABAP) programmer. If I am not coding something for a company, I work on the Opensubtitles website. Apart from this, I go out, drink some beer, sometimes I watch movies (with subtitles ofcourse:), and I go to music parties…

TorrentFreak: When, why and how did you came up with the idea to start OpenSubtitles.org?

opensubtitles subtitle downloadBrano: OpenSubtitles.org was established last year, at the beginning of 2005. I sat in some pub with my friends, talking about how hard it is to get subtitles, how bad subtitle web sites are, and what the perfect subtitle website would look like. We philosophized a bit about downloading subtitles, searching systems, and how good it will be if there would be a program that exactly knows which subtitles belongs to „my” movie.

Then, after some beers, we came up with the first idea , I decided to do something about it, and design the perfect subtitle website. We’re not there yet, but the project has the potential to change the whole system of finding and downloading subtitles.

TorrentFreak: Why the name OpenSubtitles.org?

Brano: Well, the main reason is that the content is open. This means every page on the site is available in XML format, just by adding /xml extension into URL. XML is far better for data processing than HTML. The main reason to use XML is for the translation of the site to other languages. Opensubtitles is currently available in 21 foreign languages, but we would like to have even more translations. The translating would not have been possible without the great help of our community!

When I created OpenSubtitles.org my target was to create an easy and understandable website. I didn’t want any flashing ads and banners and I hate registering, so almost all functions work without registration. And although the site may look simple, we so have some great features under the hood. For example, RSS and email results based on search criteria. There was a period in my life, when I used to downloaded subtitles before the movies, so I wanted feature like: find all subtitles in these languages, for thriller movies not older than 2 years, which have IMDB rating higher than 7. This all is possible, just click on this link Another cool feature is multisearch, just try this: make directory listing with movies (dir /b > out.txt), copy and paste this listing into the multisearch, and our server will list all subtitles found sorted by IMDB rating. IMDB is the basis of the whole website, so it is not possible to have the same movie saved under two different titles.

TorrentFreak: Are you currently collaborating with torrent sites?

Brano: I collaborate with mybittorent.com. For now this is only one site, but in the future it is possible to partner with more BitTorrent sites. I think that BitTorrent sites are missing subtitles for their movies. So it should be better for the users, if they can find/download matching subtitles directly from that site. It is possible to make unique identifier (imdb number/filesize). If there are torrent sites out there who are interested in cooperating, just contact me.

TorrentFreak: You only started a few months ago. How many visitors do you have at this point?

Brano: Good question. Immediately after launching website I saw, that one dedicated server is simple not enough. Right now we have two dedicated servers. Back to daily statistics. 40.000 Visitors and around 300.000 pageviews. Is it too few? For me – yes. Servers are still having some spare power than handle more, load is still around 1, so I’d like to see 1.000 visitors online at the same time in the future.

TorrentFreak: You offer a free subtitle manager called “SubDownloader” at your site. What is SubDownloader and why it so special?

Brano: SubDownloader is opensource program coded in python. The basic idea is: the user selects movie and SubDownloader downloads the matching subtitles for this movie. So users don’t need go to website and find the subtitles, the program will do this all for them.

Users are able to download subtitles for a movie, or they can select a directory on their hard drive where movies are stored, and the program will find all subtitles for them. It is based on unique (CRC64 + filesize), which is the same as hash used in MPC; but I’d suggest stronger one , based at least on MD5 or SHA1. Of course downloading is not the only one feature it has. Another important feature is that you’re able to upload subtitles to our server, so other people are able to download them. This is all automated, the program will automatically scan for an NFO file, and will extract other useful information from the filename for example.

TorrentFreak: When and how did you get the idea to open source the content of your website?

Brano: I like the idea of opensource. OpenSubtitles.org is not really opensource, we should call it opencontent. A month after the website was launched, Ivan Garcia from Spain (currently in Vietnam) contacted me a he volunteered to code a plugin to VLC player. Of course, I accepted his offer, because I made this site exactly for this. We discussed some details and we agreed on developing an opensource program, which will run on every operating system with a python interpreter. I coded XMLRPC interface for the website, and described functions. He wrote some basic routines and SubDownloader was slowly turning into a real application. The current version is 1.2.2, but I think 1.2.3 will be released very soon , the feedback we get is amazing.

TorrentFreak: What’s your message for future users of OpenSubtitles.org?

Brano: It is like P2P, but I call this system U2U , Users 2 Users. The more people will upload subtitles with SubDownloader, the more subtitles will be found correctly. We have further plans, making a commandline script (you will write something like subdownloader-console ,auto *.*) to autodownload subtitles for example. I am in in touch with XBOX community (XBMC), so they could make such a plugin. My dream is that the DirectShow filter will use this website, which would have similar functions as SubDownloader has , this should be a big progress , just open the movie and automatically download subtitles and watch movie immediately with them. I am a big fan of movies and so on, but dedicated servers cost some money, and I pay that from my own cash, I want to minimize the ads on the site. People who donate do this for a good cause. I also plan to make some t-shirts, so we could recognize each other on street. We are also looking for skilled programmers who can help us.

TorrentFreak: Thanks for the interview, and good luck with the website

Brano: You’re welcome.

Links:

  • Opensubtitles.org
  • Subdownloader
  • MovieHash sourcecode
  • XMLRPC docs
  • Sponsored listing
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