Netflix planning to move away from Silverlight to HTML5

Netflix app on a Surface RT

Currently the only way to watch Netflix content is via one of their apps or via the Silverlight plugin in the browser. Microsoft have make it fairly clear that Silverlight has no future so it’s no surprise that media companies are looking to move away from browser addin. Netflix have announced since Microsoft are ending support of Silverlight 5 in 2021 they are starting the transition to HTML5.

In a post on the Netflix Tech Blog they describe how they are working with W3C standards for premium video delivery. In other words Netflix are working to find a way to be able to deliver premium content video without risk of it being copied and keeping the content companies happy. Netflix are already testing using HTML5 on ARM based Chromebooks and are close to testing HTML5 on Windows and OS X.

You can read the technical details on the blog post.

Today, we’re excited to talk about proposed extensions to HTML5 video that enable playback of premium video content on the web.

We currently use Microsoft Silverlight to deliver streaming video to web browsers on the PC and Mac.  It provides a high-quality streaming experience and lets us easily experiment with improvements to our adaptive streaming algorithms.  But since Microsoft announced the end of life of Silverlight 5 in 2021, we need to find a replacement some time within the next 8 years.  We’d like to share some progress we’ve made towards our goal of moving to HTML5 video.

Silverlight and Browser Plugins

Silverlight is a browser plugin which allows our customers to simply click “Play” on the Netflix website and watch their favorite movies or TV shows, but browser plugins have a few disadvantages.  First, customers need to install the browser plugin on their computer prior to streaming video. For some customers, Netflix might be the only service they use which requires the Silverlight browser plugin. Second, some view browser plugins as a security and privacy risk and choose not to install them or use tools to disable them. Third, not all browsers support plugins (eg: Safari on iOS, Internet Explorer in Metro mode on Windows 8), so the ability to use them across a wide range of devices and browsers is becoming increasingly limited. We’re interested to solve these problems as we move to our next generation of video playback on the web.


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