RealNetworks has released the source code for its Helix Universal Server.

This is the code that powers Real's commercial Helix operations, and it delivers content in several different formats, including MP3 and the Real audio and video formats. The two Real formats are available via binary object code, and are not open source. All the protocols necessary for delivering streaming live or on-demand are included.

The big difference between what's available commercially from RealNetworks and what's in the open-source release is support for server-to-server quality of service, and the Apple QuickTime, MPEG-4 and Microsoft Windows Media Format. Developers are free to license those technologies separately and build support into the server on their own.

Code breaker Real wanted to include MPEG-4 support, but the proper licensing terms were not available from MPEG-LA. Once the licence has been established, and RealNetworks can determine its financial impact, MPEG-4 will be added to the source code.

In a related announcement, RealNetworks said that its Public Source License has been certified by the Open Source Initiative.

By releasing the server code, developers now have open source access to RealNetworks' three main products: server, player client and encoder software.

RealNetworks is pinning its hopes on open source as it battles Microsoft, and to some extent MPEG-4 and QuickTime, in the battle for streaming supremacy.

The server code, which can be downloaded, is available for most major operating systems including IBM AIX, HP-UX, Tru64, FreeBSD, Linux, Solaris, Windows NT and 2000.