Netflix video streaming for Linux on the way

Netflix

Internet video provider Netflix (remember when they were best-described as a mail-order DVD rental service?) allows paying subscribers to stream thousands of TV shows and movies to a computer or mobile device. But there are a few catches: If you’re using a computer it needs to be a Mac or PC, and you need to be in the US or Canada.

Now it looks like the hardware restrictions could be loosening up. We already know that Netflix is working on a plugin for Chrome OS that will allow anyone with a Google Chromebook to stream videos from the Netflix Watch Instantly collection. But the company is also reportedly working on a client for Linux which could be available sometime in the next 12 months.

Right now Netflix relies on Microsoft Silverlight technology to stream video to computers — but Linux machines don’t support Silverlight. That shouldn’t be a huge problem though, because neither do Android or iOS devices, and Netflix has already developed apps to stream video to both of those platforms.

It’s likely that the Chrome OS plugin and Linux client are related projects, since Chrome OS is based on Linux.

Word on the street is that Netflix is also looking to expand beyond US shores eventually, which means that Linux users in Europe and elsewhere may one day be able to watch old episodes of MacGuyver any time they want, just like we can in the States.

2012 update: Netflix is now available for Chrome OS, Android, iOS, and other operating systems, showing the company isn’t restricting its instant video streaming to devices that support Microsoft Silverlight. But Linux still isn’t officially supported.

Update 11/16/2012: While Netflix still doesn’t offer official support for Linux, there’s now a third party solution that will let you run Netflix in Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.

  • Pepekraft

    I thought Roku boxes running Linux have been streaming netflix for ages.  I guess I see conspiracies everywhere.  :)

    • Linux User

      There is a difference between “hardware” that supports netflix and “software” that supports netflix.  Linux is “software”, The Roku box is “hardware”.  Just because that hardware runs a linux kernel doesn’t mean that linux will support it… There is some code hardwired into a chip somewhere in the box that lets it work.

  • Jeff Rader

    Many linux devices can play netflix, but not desktops…

  • Jerry Minor

    Streaming Netflix on my Honeycomb Xoom tablet. Since Android is an offshoot from Linux, the continued “requires Silverlight” claim doesn’t hold water.

    • Anon

      It’s not because Android is an offshoot of Linux. It’s because Android doesn’t support Silverlight that the claim doesn’t hold water. Android is said to either now or at some point in the future run Moonlight, or at least a port from the people who created Moonlight to get Silverlight content on Android, although other than Netflix, I have never seen or heard any hint of content that uses Silverlight, so I don’t know why you would want to.

  • John Abbott

    Amazing isn’t it – just a day after Walmart releases Vudu which works nicely on all Linux boxes, Netflix sees its way clear to addressing the paltry little group of Linux users??   I will stay with Vudu and may Netflix die a sudden death as the world discovers Vudu.

    • Shawn

      Okay… but we watch (stream) about 100 movies, shows etc on Netflix a month for $8. To do this on Vudu would cost $200 and that’s IF they are all $2 selections. A lot of Vudu’s offerings are far more ($4-$6). Also, escaping the Micro$oft evil empire using Linux, I am not too eager to jump in bed with the Walmart evil empire to watch movies on vudu.

    • Greg Harris

      Intelligent answer sir,live long and prosper grass hopper.I will,get on the Vudu bus,thank you.

  • Patrick

    Egad. Let’s do this again people. Just because xyz tablet/media player can stream Netflix, and that particular device uses the Linux kernal, does not mean that Netflix can arbitrarily run on any Linux device. Linux needs the DRM software in Silverlight to stream Netflix. Linux has equivalent software called Moonlight, which unfortunately does not contain the DRM solution found in Silverlight. A solution to this, as seen in Roku players and selected tablets and phones, is to put the DRM software on a piece of hardware in the device. So, Moonlight + the DRM hardware = Netflix.

    • Anonymous

      Netflix is planning a move to HTML5 though but was waiting on DRM solution.  So may be a sign they figured out the DRM issue for HTML5 and may be close to making the switch official.

      • Patrick

        This is what I figure as well. Netflix seems committed to the HTML5 conversion, even moreso when Google expressed interest in Netflix streaming in ChromeOS. It seems the Netflix plugin is done(ish), now the wait for HTML5 Netflix is on. I’d be surprised if the Chrome plugin didn’t work for Linux distros out of the (proverbial) box. Even if not, I’m willing to bet the open source community has it working before Netflix has their official Linux support for streaming.

      • Watermark0n

        In all likelihood, the Chrome plugin would work perfectly fine on other Linux machines if they didn’t specifically have a line of code written saying “Is this anything other than ChromeOS? Then pretend that you can’t work.” Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.

    • Watermark0n

      That’s just bullshit. Linux is not a locked down operating system. If an application needs DRM, DRM can be added. DRM is not specifically locked out, and if the Netflix developers gave a shit they could put Netflix on Linux in an instanct, just like they do with all of the other no name random platforms that have Netflix apps within a week of their release. But they’ve sat on their asses and refused to do this for Linux for years. Why? They just don’t give a shit. Netflix hates Linux. Do not delude yourself into thinking otherwise.

      • Mike F.

        Netflix uses Linux on their servers, and at least some of their employees are Ubuntu users. They definitely don’t hate Linux. They say they’ve been wanting to include Linux for a long time. They are instead forced to use a movie-industry-approved DRM, which doesn’t exist on Linux at this point.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-McWilliams/647835548 Ken McWilliams

        I’ll speak with my wallet, Amazon Prime is the answer.  It does not have as much content currently, nor does it have as many B rated movies (that’s a good thing!) but it does support my OS!

  • Robby Cannon

    Too Bad VuDu doesn’t have an all you can eat subscription option like Netflix, that would be a great solution for me. 

  • Muttnik

    ” but Linux machines don’t support Silverlight “… shouldn’t that read “Silverlight a (closed-source product from Micro$oft) does not support Linux”??

    • Luis Camilo

      This is goes is going to be supported.Moonlight is being supported by Microsoft. This silverlgiht alternative is working, the only thing remaining is to add DRMl

      http://www.go-mono.com/moonlight/

    • Emmanuel Reynoso

      Well if people really wanted netlix, they could download xbmc and use the xbmc netflix app :P

      • Joshua Welch

        xbmc does not have netflix for linux either

  • webternals

    I like the stereotypical remarks you made about People in England running Linux and People in the US running M$. For your information I have been running Linux exclusively in my home and business since around 2005, key word is exclusively becuase I have been running Linux since before Fedora became a full blown project called Fedora back in the days when there was only RHL and RHEL.

    Any rate I live in the states and the only way I watch NETFLIX now is on my PS3 and I promise you as soon as a viable alternative to NETFLIX comes out for both the PS3 and the wide spectrum *nix community I am going to switch.

    Netflix better hurry because I may just create my own solution.

  • Guest

    I have a PC. I live in the US. But I can’t stream. Why? Because I use Linux. PC does NOT equal Windows. Never has, never will.

  • Puppy User

    I am sure that Netflix is dragging their feet with Linux because they cannot yet keep the Linux community from copying the stream, violating copyright laws.  Since Linux is open source, those who know how to navigate it will find a way around the DRM.  Maybe the community should help Netflix feel confident that there is a solution that will keep them from being sued by the MPAA.

    • Anonymous

      It’s a little more complicated than that… Google isn’t as strict on keeping things Open Source as mainstream Linux.  So they can include things like MS Silverlight into Chrome to get Netflix working with a plugin.

      While Android is more a separate fork of Linux, based on a stripped down kernel that mainstream linux no longer supports since kernel 2.6.33 on.  The differences are such that it’s ranges from hard to impossible to port a Linux App to Android and means Google doesn’t have to follow the same rules as regular Linux. 

      In fact Android scores the lowest on Open Source platforms, since it often gets proprietary adjustments made to it, especially by the celluar companies and is why so many need to be rooted to gain full access.

      So that leaves Netflix to find a cross platform solution and that would be something like HTML5 but that by default lacks security features to ensure DRM protection and Netflix has to develop its own solution to enable that protection.

      However, Netflix also has to deal with the repercussions of their restructured pricing plans. Their stocks are way down and people are actually boycotting them. So this update may be delayed until things stabilize.

      A HTML5 based solution would also be welcomed on Windows as well.  Since MS Silverlight doesn’t allow end users to enable hardware acceleration and it has to be done by the site developer.  Leaving most low end hardware systems like netbooks limited to SQ/SD resolution streams.  While the newer Cedar Trail and AMD Fusion systems are cable of taking advantage of hardware acceleration.

    • Bovineuniversity

      Actually, I am pretty sure it’s because they locked in a deal with Microsoft to use Silverlight.  Now Microsoft is driving that ship.

      • Anonymous

        Maybe originally, but they’re on record stating they will move to HTML5.  Besides MS is moving on as well considering they’re pushing HTML5 for Windows 8.

  • anonymous linux user =P

    look all the netflix worker aren’t familiar with linux (i work for them and only linux user) and they wot let me teach them anything they are a bunch of windows lovers. you knw what i have to say about windows. your computer is like an airconditioner once windows is opened it becomes useless. ty =)

  • Emmerthalc

    Haha. I loved that analogy. Can I use it from now on? This is the way I see it. It’s coming. Be patient. It will probably come in the form of the sudden bankruptcy of Netflix and creation of a company that doesn’t alienate a share of its market.

  • drew

    So, I know that this is kinda off topic.. but I have never lived in the glorous USofA and yet I have netflix (given not on my linux machines….) Netflix has been in Canada (ie outside of the US) for about a year now…  just thought I’d point that out.

  • Bankrobber977

    they’re businesses… *nix is not a business… that’s the math: any activities that microsoft or netflix perform are based on profit.  there is no monetary motivation (licenses, profit, whatever) for netflix to make a *nix desktop player.  if it’s going to come, it’s going to be slow.  VM for now :

    • Bubba

      That’s not true. It doesn’t matter what OS you are using or if it’s part of a “business” as you say. Every person watching Netflix is a paid subscriber. Now, that Netflix’s stock has been crippled maybe they will pay attention to the  linux users. For me, because of the price increase, I have gone elsewhere. They had a perfect business model and fucked it up. Their CEO should be fired.

  • Robert Lowe

    it amazing that , a site like hulu, vudu can stream online, but netflix has to have 10 to 15 plugin’s to operate, I think in reality how everyone is on a budget and with more OS’s needing, high power processors that they need to just revamp and go to a html5 version of the site once they sperate qwickster and Netflix, where anyone can go on there pc and watch a movie or tv show

  • http://twitter.com/cheezburgrmania Steven Young

    Amazon Prime movies run fine on Mint using Adobe Flash.

  • Hephaestus Wins

    Actually. Windows can EASILY bypass the DRM enforcement with a simple utility named FRAPS. Which uses DIRECT framebuffer capture at 60fps to grab the OUTPUT from the video card PLUS any embedded audio streams and save it as raw 25MBps AVI. Don’t give me any of that fucking bullshit about “Linux users will strip the DRM thats why they dont support it.” Windows users can EASILY strip the video of DRM with a simple gaming/performance benchmarking tool. Enter FRAPS. 

  • Kmomotaro

    NOPE… NOT YET! happens every year..  been a netflix subscriber for 3 years.. promise has not been met.. 

  • Ezequiel Partida

    Do you guys really thing netflix will support linux when the HTML5 netflix plugin is already working on Google ChromeOS?.

    I just hope sundaytv.com will go worldwide since it works great on any OS. It’s even better than netflix.

    Regards