Almost exactly a year ago, Mozilla announced that it would (very reluctantly) implement the HTML5 DRM specs into Firefox. Today, the organization officially launched HTML5 DRM support with the release of Firefox 38. In addition, however, Mozilla also announced the launch of a separate Firefox download that won’t automatically install Adobe’s technology for playing back DRM-wrapped content in the browser.
With the launch of Firefox 38 today, the default version of the browser now supports the Encrypted Media Extensions API on Windows desktop (Vista+) and automatically downloads the Adobe Content Decryption Module (CDM).
The argument here is that this will allow users to watch content from Netflix and similar services without having to deal with plug-ins like Microsoft’s Silverlight, which is on its way out, and Adobe’s Flash. Having a built-in DRM solution in the browser that plays nicely with the HTML5 standard means users can watch their videos without having to think about plug-ins and the security issues that come with them. Netflix is already testing Firefox’s DRM solution to stream content to its subscribers.
Unsurprisingly, the clash between the closed-source DRM solution and the free and open Firefox browsers — and Mozilla’s mission in general — didn’t sit well with long-time Firefox and open source supporters. They can now download the CDM-free version of Firefox.
Mozilla was in a tough position when it decided to adopt DRM in its browser. It’s already having a hard time hanging on to its existing users and most of its users probably don’t care all that much about DRM, but they would care if Netflix suddenly stopped working. In the end, the organization made the pragmatic decision to support this technology, but it clearly didn’t enjoy doing so.