The growing popularity of video on the Web has prompted RealNetworks to launch a beta version of its RealPlayer software that allows users to easily record and download videos to their PCs.

The software, RealPlayer version 11, can be downloaded free, the company said Tuesday.

With the new version, users can surf the Web and select clips or longer videos by clicking a "Download this Video" icon that pops up whenever they view video content.

Videos are downloaded in the background, allowing users to view the content not only at their own convenience but also on the full screen of their PCs, according to RealNetworks spokesman Ryan Luckin.

Moreover, users don't have to worry about knowing video formats, Luckin said. The new version records online video in all major formats, including Flash, Windows Media and QuickTime. In addition, it recognizes video content protected by DRM (digital rights management) systems and blocks such content from being recorded.

RealNetworks plans additional features, including an option to allow video content to be downloaded to portable devices, such as iPods, according to Luckin.

With the free version of RealPlayer, users can burn videos to CDs in the VCD (video compact disc) format. For $29.99 (£15), users can purchase RealPlayer Plus, which allows them to burn to DVDs.