I don't remember the first time self-destructing DVDs came out, but according to Ars Technica, a company called Flexplay Technologies has decided to give them one more try. My experience with self-destructing mechanisms is limited to the tapes in Mission Impossible that disintegrate in a discrete puff of smoke and the enormous explosions in space when yet another Star Fleet captain blows up the Enterprise in Star Trek. So it was with some trepidation that I read about self-destructing DVDs. Visions of home entertainment shrapnel and curtains on fire swam across my mind. I was quite relieved to discover that the destruction concerned was rather low-key.
Self-destructing DVDs undergo a chemical reaction once they are exposed to the air. Over a two-day period, one of the DVD layers is slowly degraded until it becomes opaque and impossible to read or recover data from. The question then arises: what on earth do you do with an unreadable disc? Most people will probably throw them in the trash and think no more about it, or hang them from their rear-view mirrors (which is tres chic), but Flexplay Technologies encourages all of their customers to recycle used discs via their mail-in recycling programme.
The self-destruct discs will retail at $5, which is actually fairly expensive considering that you get such limited use out of them. (Amazon sells DVDs on special for around $5 or $6; their regular DVDs sell for between $16 and $18.) If you only want to see a DVD once or twice, renting one is a far more feasible option. It's cheaper, for one thing, and you have a wider selection for another. At the moment, Flexplay only has 49 movies in its collection. Self-destruct DVDs also have to compete with a growing market of videos-on-demand supplied by many ISPs.
Ars Technica has a rather dim view of the future of self-destructing DVDs. They believe that the current version has no greater chance of surviving the long haul than its predecessors. As Ars Technica says, the market for self-destructing DVDs exists; it's just too small to sustain them.
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