Crowdfunded dongle Matchstick sparks backlash with DRM plans

In its original plans, Firefox OS-powered Chromecast alternative Matchstick was meant to be shipping by this time, but the project did not flag plans to support DRM until this weekend.

Self-proclaimed open hardware and software platform Matchstick has surprised backers of its project over the weekend, when it announced plans to support Microsoft's PlayReady technology in a revised, and delayed, product.

Matchstick Firefox OS dongle
(Image: Matchstick)

"We've decided to release the product when it is ready, and anticipate that to be in August 2015," the Matchstick team said in a blog post.

Matchstick intends to update its HDMI dongle to a quad-core processor, and to work out Wi-Fi connection issues related to the placement of HDMI ports on televisions.

"With a new processor, we have some new opportunities," Matchstick said. "Many premium content providers such as Netflix require DRM support. Matchstick has undertaken the mission to develop DRM as an independent project with the open-source community."

The Matchstick was originally set out in its Kickstarter plan to ship in January and February 2015, but that timetable has now slipped to August as the project shifts its focus to updating the hardware and tackling digital rights management (DRM).

"DRM is a barrier and has become our primary focus, and as we work to nail that down, we continue to explore new opportunities to upgrade the entire Matchstick experience."

The promise to develop its DRM code as open source was not enough to placate its supporters, as backers took to the comments section demanding refunds, and asking why Matchstick had changed its products' specification at this seemingly late stage.

"You promised open hardware and open software. Now, DRM can't possibly be made in open software, and Microsoft's module surely won't be," said one backer in a statement indicative of the more than 1,500 comments posted at the time of writing.

"That means you can't deliver on your promise and every single backer on this Kickstarter should be reimbursed and you should do a new Kickstarter for your new closed DRMed system."

The Firefox OS-powered Matchstick bust onto the hardware scene last year, as the project reached its $100,000 funding target in less than a day.

"When Google introduced Chromecast, we were excited about the possibilities, but ultimately were disappointed when they pulled back on the device's ultimate promise -- any content on any HD screen, anywhere, anytime," Matchstick spokesman Shawn Bow said on Mozilla's blog at the time.

"We decided to make something better and more open, and to accomplish this, we had to choose an operating system that would become the bedrock for the adaptable and open-sourced platform that is Matchstick. That platform is Firefox OS, which allows us to build the first streaming stick free of any walled garden ecosystem."

Matchstick said over the weekend that its updated product will ensure that its dongle is more than just a hacked Chromecast.

"We've learned a lot about Matchstick since last fall. Most importantly, we learned that we had struck a nerve with consumers and brands alike.

"We hope you agree it's better to make a small sacrifice now for a bigger gain later."