Why does Ubuntu come with Totem set as default? Is there a reason or am I just wrongly assuming everybody thinks Totem is actually inferior to VLC?

Not to mention VLC is vastly known as perhaps the best video player for Windows, which would help with a smoother transition to Windows users making the switch.

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    Well in my defense I stopped using Windows two years ago so my stats might be a bit inaccurate. I still believe VLC is superior to Totem though. Cheers. – Gabriel Aug 8 '12 at 13:26

Because it's not just the playback capabilities that matter. You have to take the user interface and system integration into account as well.

  • Totem is built around anchored technology that is well-maintained and shared by many other applications: GTK+, GStreamer. Therefore, maintenance is easier and less space is wasted on the installation medium (live cd/usb).
  • VLC does not follow the GNOME HIG, a range of conventions that address the UI of applications. Therefore it doesn't fit in with the other GNOME and Ubuntu software on your system. Just compare the menus, icons, button placement and terminology with, let's say, Gedit. While at first this seems like an out-of-place comparison, it is actually really accurate, since all GNOME applications share the same "logic", even when they serve completely different purposes.
  • VLC can pose licensing issues, since the codecs that come with it may or may not be legal in your country.
  • VLC offers too much functionality to be named just a player: it can handle DVB, broadcast in all kinds of formats, deal with screen recording, can convert files, and so on. It goes way beyond the simple qualifications a media player has to meet to be included by default, which in fact is not a good thing. Less is more when it comes to default applications. More can confuse the average user.
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    Mostly the codecs are the issue. – Scaine Aug 7 '12 at 23:41
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    Not exactly, as those could be installed using gnome-codec-install if they would apply some patches. The user interface and the different philosophy of VLC are the major drawbacks. Most users don't need the huge scale of features that VLC offers. It looks alien compared to the structure of, let's say, Rhythmbox or even Gedit. Completely different menu structures, icons, terminology. – Cumulus007 Aug 7 '12 at 23:44
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    This should be the accepted answer. I hinted at the why in my answer, but this one states it more plainly. – RobotHumans Aug 7 '12 at 23:44
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    I don’t see how the last point is relevant since that doesn’t get in the way of normal usage at all. Normal users don’t even necessarily notice that these features exist. The rest is spot-on, however. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 8 '12 at 15:16
  • Ubuntu has firefox as the default browser instead of (the more gnomish, and simpler) epiphany. – jaseem Jul 3 '13 at 14:23

Totem is built around gstreamer codec adapters. This makes it a better candidate for gnome-ish-default.

VLC is built around direct interface with ffmpeg libraries (if you build mplayer from source it includes ffmpeg inside the svn checkout).

These make both of those options less probable for defaults.

I find VLC to be a superior player, but the direct reliance on ffmpeg as opposed to gstreamer is a large barrier to making it a default.


Maybe to you Totem is inferior, maybe for other it isn't.

There's has to be some sort of choices in the applications that come by default on Ubuntu, and it's impossible to please everyone.

The good thing is, that you can make whatever video player you want to be the default on your Ubuntu.

Just go to System Settings - Details - Default Applications and choose the one you want for Video

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    Yes I know I can (I have it set as default actually, it's one of the first things I do), I was wondering if maybe there was some issue with proprietary coding in VLC or something of that sort. – Gabriel Aug 7 '12 at 23:32
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    I think it comes down to making some choice. Totem can be in the future be replaced by other video playback tool, it all depends on the dev team thinks it's the best and/or the users feedback/requests – LnxSlck Aug 7 '12 at 23:58
  • Gabriel is asking what the reasons are for making Totem default instead of VLC. To answer by saying 'they have to choose something and you can't please everyone' doesn't even come close to answering the question. – Chan-Ho Suh Aug 15 '12 at 0:48
  • It means that developers or whoever is in charge of choosing the default applications, have to make choices, and they choose Totem because it integrates better with Ubuntu desktop (gnome libs and such) and VLC doesnt @aking1012 explained it better. And this doesn't invalidate what i said before, choices have to be made. – LnxSlck Aug 15 '12 at 0:50
  • aking1012 didn't just explain it better. He actually explained it. You did too (although not as in-depth) in your last comment: "integrates better...(gnome libs...) VLC doesn't". That's a real explanation. Saying there had to be some choice doesn't explain anything. OP knows they had to make a choice. And he knows they have some reasons. What are they? That's his question. – Chan-Ho Suh Aug 18 '12 at 22:24

Ubuntu standard edition is gnome based and they choose the best application for the look/feel, integration with the rest of the distribution, the applications developers commitment to the open source community. Gstreamer powers totem and it's the bedrock of codec support in Ubuntu/Gnome and is pretty much bad ass. Plus, VLC sorta sucks for the interface. It's much more a stand alone application, a drop in replacement for other media players, personal choice, for that it's excellent. It's very much a power user media player and as such goes over the heads of some people. The whole point of making a distribution such as Ubuntu is that all the chosen apps are easily usable by everyone. It's really extraordinarily simple, the decision to do so I mean, not totem, actually I mean totem too! ha

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