Here's my reply: You are right to be hesitant about RealPlayer from RealNetworks Inc. Previous versions of RealPlayer have been criticised for serving up ads, installing too many startup and background programs, and attempting to set itself as the default player for many other file formats, not just RealMedia ones.
None of us at In.Tech have installed RealPlayer, and we generally avoid viewing RealMedia files. We're not the only ones who feel that way; in a PC World story titled The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time (May 2006), RealPlayer was listed in the No. 2 position.
But if you absolutely need to play RealNetworks' file formats, consider Real Alternative instead of any product from RealNetworks.
Developed by a third party, Real Alternative allows you to play RealMedia files with Media Player Classic (a free program), without having to install RealPlayer or RealOne Player.
Real Alternative supports the RealAudio (.ra and .rpm), RealMedia/RealVideo (.rm, .ram, .rmvb, .rpx .smi, and .smil), RealText (.rt), and RealPix (.rp) formats.
It also supports RealMedia content that is embedded in webpages. However, certain RealMedia files like .smi and .smil files are not fully supported, so only the first part will usually be played. The developers say this is a limitation of the current version of Media Player Classic.
Real Alternative's RealMedia browser plugin supports Internet Explorer, Opera, Firefox and Netscape.
Real Alternative can be downloaded from http://snipurl.com/94ce while Media Player Classic can be found at http://sourceforge.net/projects/guliverkli.