Plex introduces web-based media center, rolls out premium subscriptions

Media center maker Plex took a big leap to the web Wednesday with the introduction of a web-based Plex client that allows users to access their Plex library from any browser. The company also took a first step towards monetization with the introduction of a subscription tier called PlexPass.

The Plex web client will offer users access to their own media files as well as online content from sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Users will also be able to access any media shared with them by other Plex users through the MyPlex cloud service, and can manage their media libraries with it. “In short, this new web client is the most powerful Plex client around,” wrote Plex developer Elan Feingold in the announcement blog post.

Feingold added that the client is still in beta. That is one of the reasons it’s only made available to a select group of users, which brings us to Plex’s other big announcement: The company rolled a subscription service dubbed PlexPass Wednesday that will give paying users first dibs on features like the Plex web client.

Subscriptions cost $4 a month, or $30 for the whole year, and Feingold promised subscribers further exclusive premium features. The post also mentioned that other paid-for features will come to the general Plex user base, and that PlexPass uers would be able to access these at a discounted rate. It’s unclear yet what these features will be, but one could imagine that Plex could at some point offer advanced transcoding features or even cloud media storage.

Asking users to pay for access to beta versions is a bit of a risky bet, but Plex is one of those products with a strong and very active community. The company is clearly hoping to tap into that community to bring in some revenue, and in the age of Kickstarter and crowd-funding, that strategy may just pay off.

Plex originally launched as a media center solution for people who connect their PC to their TV, but has since branched out to become a media center ecosystem with apps for Google TV,(s GOOG) Roku, Samsung, Android and iOS.(s AAPL) The company also introduced a cloud video sharing solution called MyPlex late last year.