Entertainment &Online Video Steven Kippel on 29 May 2010

Why is Netflix ignoring Linux?

Why is Netflix ignoring Linux?

Netflix LogoWhile Linux doesn’t have a terribly large percentage of the operating system market, with just over 1 percent, it simply doesn’t make any sense that Netflix doesn’t support the open platform. Jumping to the answer right up front: it’s Microsoft’s fault.

Netflix Watch Instantly uses the Microsoft Silverlight platform with Microsoft PlayReady DRM. This is fine for the majority of users who use Microsoft Windows, and Macintosh OS X. However, Microsoft Silverlight does not run on Linux platforms.

The full story is a bit more complicated than that, however.

There is a Linux project for Silverlight called Moonlight, which is developed by Novell. Microsoft even helps with the Moonlight development. So why doesn’t this work with Netflix? Well, Netflix uses the newest implementation of Silverlight, and Moonlight is a full version behind. Additionally, the query from Netflix checks the operating system for support and will not respond to a Linux query.

So why doesn’t Microsoft add support for Linux in Silverlight? That is a good question. They are working with Intel to provide a Silverlight platform for the Atom processor which is ported for Linux, but they are not looking to support the broader Linux community. That’s what Moonlight is for, they claim. Microsoft’s Brian Goldfarb, director of the Developer Platform Group, said,

I’m really clear about our commitment to Moonlight. I see the work we’re doing with Miguel and Moonlight as core to our strategy for delivering implementations for Linux.

It really appears Microsoft is deliberately preventing Linux users from achieving full support for Silverlight in the latest version. They do this while simultaneously claiming they want to bring Silverlight to “as many platforms and as many devices as possible.”

The fact remains that if Microsoft can port Silverlight to Linux for Intel Atom netbooks, they just as easily could port it to the broader Linux base.

The conclusion to the matter is that Netflix’s decision to use the Microsoft Silverlight platform has alienated their Linux user base, and it appears Microsoft is deliberately preventing these users from full Silverlight support.

There is a way to watch Netflix Watch Instantly in Linux, but it is through a virtual machine window running Windows XP (although the virtual machine makes the video choppy). Of course since you’re running Windows XP anyway, what’s the point?

Sign the petition to bring Linux support of Netflix.


2 Responses to “Why is Netflix ignoring Linux?”

  1. on 03 Sep 2011 at 9:09 PM 1.David Meritt said …

    I think the statistics about the number of Linux users are low and highly debated. This may be one of the reasons Netflix didn’t see fit to use a more portable technology.

    Microsoft probably provided much of the Netflix Silverlight deployment for free to make sure there was a Silverlight user in the media market. Netflix is just about the only one, and they may have regrets now that Android is a big player in the phone and tablet market. Netflix has an Android ap, but it seems to need special attention to get it working on many phones.

    It seems very likely that Microsoft would use their formidable influence to convince copyright holders that Silverlight provides some additional measure of security for their media. Keeping it off Linux would be part of the security and happens to play right into the Microsoft philosophy that they need features setting them apart from freeware.

    All this posturing is being overcome by events, though, as Microsoft moves away from WPF and Silverlight in favour of html5. Netflix may just turn to Flash as Silverlight becomes extinct. We’ll see.

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