Netflix is taking a big step toward moving away from Microsoft Silverlight technology to stream videos to your web browser. The company has announced that you can now stream videos in HTML5… if you’re using Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1.
While HTML5 is a web standard used by most modern web browsers, Netflix relies on a few technologies that aren’t yet widely available, which means that it may be a long time before you can stream videos in other web browsers or on other operating systems.
In other words, if you’re running Ubuntu, Fedora, or another GNU/Linux operating system, you’re probably going to keep needing complicated workarounds to stream Netflix videos for the foreseeable future.
Netflix says it’s support IE11 and Windows 8.1 because Microsoft implemented 3 things:
- Media Source Extensions
- Encrypted Media Extensions with Microsoft PlayReader DRM
- Web Cryptography API
I’d be surprised if we see that level of DRM added to Chrome or Firefox web browsers in Ubuntu anytime soon.
On the one hand, Netflix obviously wants to make it easier for users to stream content on a variety of devices. You don’t make a lot of money with a subscription-based service unless you have happy customers.
On the other hand, the Netflix streaming business model depends on the idea that you can stream content, but not download and save it — or even stream it to too many devices at once using the same user account. So it’s not surprising that the company requires strong DRM (digital rights management) technology. It’d be tough to get TV and movie studios to license content to Netflix if the service was leaky.
But DRM is rarely implemented in a way that makes it truly easy to access content on any device you’d like, whether you’re talking about DRM-laden eBooks, music files, or streaming videos.