Summary:

Netflix has adopted HTML5 for its user experience in reaching connected devices, but has shied away from standards-based video playback, citing concerns about lack of content security. But a job posting suggests it might soon be building tools and pushing standards for HTML5 video playback.

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Netflix has not been a major proponent of HTML5 video in the past, saying that the new web standard is still missing some features — like content security — that are necessary to deliver premium video experiences to its subscribers. But that could soon change, as it is seeking a software engineer to help build standards-based video experiences in HTML5.

According to a posting on the Netflix jobs site, (hat tip to Hacking Netflix) the company seeks a Senior Software Engineer for HTML5 Video Standards. That job will entail “driving the definition, adoption, and development of a standards-based adaptive video streaming solution.” To do so, the ideal candidate will be expected to work with browser vendors, standards bodies and device partners to develop streaming video functionality in HTML5.

Netflix is increasingly turning to HTML5 for its user interface, particularly on connected devices. In a blog post on his personal website in May, Netflix cloud architect Adrian Cockcroft talked about how the subscription video firm was turning to HTML5 for new, advanced interface features. And Netflix followed up on its newly launched Tech Blog late last week with further details about how it is using HTML5 to build the user interface for devices like Sony’s PlayStation 3 and the Apple iPad.

But Netflix has steered clear of using the web standard for video playback, relying instead on Microsoft’s Silverlight for web delivery and on proprietary streaming protocols for connected devices like the iPad. That’s due mostly to a lack of tools available today for protecting content as it is streamed in HTML5 to the end user. Indeed, in an update to his post on the matter, Cockcroft specifically cited a lack of DRM as a stumbling point in bringing standards-based video experience to web browsers and other devices.

Netflix is hardly alone in its concerns over content security in HTML5 video playback; earlier this year, Hulu said that lack of DRM was one reason it was not ready to enable a standards-based video service. And issues of content security may be one reason that CBS Interactive has not yet rolled out full-length episodes of its shows on its mobile website for the iPad, despite earlier promises to do so.

That said, hiring a software engineer with experience in HTML5 video might not be just about building products that Netflix can roll out to consumers in the near future, but in helping to establish standards and tools — especially around content security and adaptive streaming — that it can use in the longer term. The job posting even suggests as much, saying that Netflix is looking for someone with a “proven ability to build consensus and drive an agenda within the broader community.”

As a heavyweight in the streaming realm, Netflix has an interest in driving those discussions, in part because moving to standards will drastically reduce the development time it spends on creating, refining and updating multiple versions of the same user experience across a vast number of devices. With its streaming service already available on more than 200 different connected devices, it has an interest in simplifying the development process for reaching the consumer on whichever device he or she is using. Being able to use a single UI and a single, standards-based HTML5 video stream would not just drastically reduce its build time across a number of fragmented devices, but could enable it to use its resources to add features and greatly improve the user experience across all of them.

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