Thanks to the availability of a couple of premium video extensions that it’s been helping to develop along with other Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) members, Netflix today is announcing support for HTML5 playback on Samsung ARM-based Chromebooks. According to an entry on the Netflix Tech Blog, the development of Media Source Extensions (MSE), Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), and Web Cryptography API (WebCrypto) will soon allow it to support HTML5 playback on a whole host of modern browsers without the need for a third-party browser extension.
While a large number of web publishers have begun to move toward HTML5-based playback over the last few years, Netflix hasn’t been one of them. It’s required users to download the Microsoft Silverlight plugin for browser-based viewing for the last several years. But with Silverlight slowly making its way out, and technologies around HTML5 getting better, the streaming video company is beginning to test out new ways to make its movies and TV shows available without a plug-in.
That’s opening the door for Netflix to embrace a more standards-based format for video playback, but it’s doing so cautiously. The reason for Netflix’s use of Silverlight in the first place is due to its need to provide DRM and ensure that its users aren’t copying its content or displaying it in places where they’re not authorized to.
While HTML5 video playback has become widely adopted for user-generated content, standards around DRM have been slow to develop for HTML5 browsers. Netflix has been working to change that, and its first support of those HTML5-based video technology is finally out in the wild.
That said, there’s still work to do. Netflix was able to work with Google to get its videos working on those Chromebooks, thanks to a proprietary Netflix-developed PPAPI (Pepper Plugin API) plug-in which takes the place of the WebCrypto extension. But once WebCrypto is available through the Chrome browser, Netflix should be able to extend its support of HTML5 to Windows and Mac PCs without the need for Silverlight.
That’s good news, since Microsoft has announced that it will end support for Silverlight in the coming years. While Netflix and other video providers have until 2021 to move off Silverlight, the move to support HTML5 only makes sense. It’s the future, after all.