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Netflix to switch from Microsoft Silverlight to HTML5 video

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April 17, 2013

Netflix has announced its plans to move to HTML5 streaming

Netflix has announced its plans to move to HTML5 streaming

If you're a Netflix subscriber and you use a Mac or PC for playback, then you may be aware that the service utilizes Microsoft's Silverlight plugin to bring you all that Breaking Bad and House of Cards goodness. But for a variety of reasons, Silverlight isn't the ideal video delivery method, and Netflix has started looking towards a bright, HTML5-based future.

There are two major problems with Silverlight. The first is that not all browsers support the plugin, with the most notable hold-outs being Safari on iOS and Internet Explororer in Metro mode on Windows 8. The second problem is the very fact that Silverlight is a plugin at all. Users have to install it, keep it up to date and due to security and privacy issues, may not actually want it on their machines at all. Microsoft also plans to stop developing the plugin by 2021, making the search for an alternative even more pressing.

Netflix has revealed its plans for the service, the first stage of which was the implementation of HTML5 streaming on the ARM-based Samsung Chromebook. In that instance, the company has used both Media Source Extensions (MSE) and Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) to allow JavaScript to generate media streams for playback, and to provide an API to control playback of protected content.

The company is looking to implement a Web Cryptography API (WebCrypto) that allows for the encryption and decryption of communications between JavaScript and Netflix servers. Once WebCrypto is ready, Netflix plans to implement a fully plugin-free service on the Chromebook, and will begin testing the HTML5 video player on Windows and OS X.

Netflix hasn't given a timeframe for the changes, stating only that the replacement needs to be in place before Silverlight's end of life in 2021. That said, the company's progress with Chromebook streaming is encouraging, and it's likely that we'll see HTML5-based Netflix before too long.

Source: Netflix

About the Author
Chris Wood Chris recently graduated from the University of Exeter with a degree in Politics and Ancient History. Based in the U.K., he has an enthusiasm for technology of all kinds, specializing in mobile tech and games. In his spare time you might find him running, playing music, following NFL (Pats fan) or fueling his ever growing Swiss watch obsession.   All articles by Chris Wood
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6 Comments

The thing I find interesting is Netflix's optimistic and not altogether certain assumption that they will still be in business in 2021. But yes, anything that eliminates dependence on a proprietary Microsoft technology is a good thing. Now if only ActiveX would die a richly deserved death.

Gadgeteer
17th April, 2013 @ 03:11 pm PDT

Silverlight will last until 2021? HAHAHA!

FrankenPC
17th April, 2013 @ 08:45 pm PDT

Best news today... Let's move forward into HTML5 and beyond please.

Nicolas Zart
18th April, 2013 @ 12:27 pm PDT

Huray! I'm with FrankenPC though...

This change should have come three to five years ago. There's actually still a reasonably untapped market of Linux users who would have been happy to join up with Netflix, because being a Linux Geek doesn't actually mean you're unwilling to pay for things - it just means you would rather not have to worry about your TV crashing every week.

What's most interesting is that WebTV's, phones and tablets have had Netflix for a while now - building their own browser plug-in would have been trivial compared to this, and going to HTML-5 is surely less work (and ultimately more secure) than all of these efforts combined.

Anyway, it's good to see them finally making the move.

Phyzzi
18th April, 2013 @ 02:22 pm PDT

Another Linux aficionado here.

Lots of Raspberry Pis can use this too.

James M. Van Damme
19th April, 2013 @ 12:48 pm PDT

Agree with Phyzzi and James; Linux is a huge untapped market—Not only for desktop users, but for the countless Linux-based (but non-proprietary) devices that could be watching Netflix videos but for the dependence on proprietary Microsoft technologies.

isolationism
20th April, 2013 @ 08:17 am PDT
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