April 16, 2013

Netflix Begins Move from Microsoft Silverlight to HTML5 Video

Currently, Netflix streams almost exclusively using Microsoft (News Alert) Silverlight, except in the case of Samsung’s ARM-based Chromebook, which can’t use Silverlight. This seemingly small concession, however, was only the beginning for Netflix’s adoption of HTML5.

Indeed, the streaming service yesterday outlined its plans to bring HTML5 streaming to all browsers, either desktop or mobile. According to Anthony Park and Mark Watson of Netflix, Silverlight just isn’t cutting it anymore, as plug-ins just don’t work well with most mobile browsers.

More importantly, Microsoft may no longer be developing Silverlight beyond its current release.

The obvious solution, then, is HTML5 video, but Netflix does have some concerns regarding the relatively young technology, namely in terms of Netflix’s development needs and DRM requirements. As such, Netflix has been collaborating with the W3C (NewsAlert) (World Wide Web Consortium) on three initiatives that combined will provide the exact functionality required for streaming video services like Netflix.

The extensions produced by these initiatives have been dubbed the "HTML5 Premium Video Extensions," and each handles a different aspect necessary for Netflix streaming. The first allows the company to handle its delivery streams with JavaScript, while a second cryptography extension handles security, ensuring that any communications between Netflix’s JavaScript code and servers is secure.

The third extension handles DRM encryption.

The development of HTML5 DRM encryption included other major players as well, including Google and Microsoft, and has been in the works for a few months now. This is perhaps the most significant breakthrough made as part of Netflix’s switch to HTML5, as DRM is often cited as the major obstacle in the way of HTML5 video’s broader adoption.

Netflix says the JavaScript delivery and DRM extensions are actually already at work in the Chrome OS version of Netflix, while the cryptography extension is currently being substituted with Netflix’s own plug-in for the moment.

All that needs to happen now is Google (News Alert) building that extension into the Chrome browser for wide-range HTML5 video testing to begin.

Edited by Braden Becker


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