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Summary:

Netflix is all for HTML5 video, but it doesn’t want to simply reinvent the wheel and push forward with its own flavor of browser-based video delivery technologies. The company said today that it’s instead getting involved in standards bodies to resolve remaining obstacles across all platforms.

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Netflix officially embraced HTML5 video this Wednesday with a blog post that called the technology “an attractive goal.” However, Netflix isn’t content to just push forward with its own flavor of HTML5 video, the way Apple did with its own implementation on the iPad and other iOS devices. Instead, it wants to build an industry-wide consensus on issues like video codecs and container formats used for browser-based video delivery as well as DRM content protection.

The company’s VP of engineering Christian Kaiser wrote in the blog post that many of these issues haven’t been resolved yet, which has prevented Netflix from adopting HTML5 video. The company wants to change that by actively getting involved in standards bodies like the MPEG committee for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH), which is trying to come up with a standard for adaptive bitrate streaming to HTML5 web browsers. The committee also includes companies like Microsoft and Apple, and Kaiser said that Netflix aims to publicly contribute to the standard beginning early next year.

Netflix is interested in HTML5 video because it would help to simplify the roll-out of its online video service across different devices. The company is currently utilizing Microsoft’s Silverlight to deliver video to PC-based web browsers, but has to leverage a host of other technologies to address Linux-based CE devices, mobile phones and tablets like the iPad. Adding this kind of flexibility would also help CE partners and end users, according to Kaiser:

“Browser builders and CE manufacturers could support every OS and device they choose, leveraging the same implementations across multiple streaming services instead of building and integrating an one-off implementation for each service. Consumers would benefit by having a growing number of continually evolving choices available on their devices, just like how the web works today for other types of services.”

This kind of talk may sound a lot like Steve Jobs praising HTML5 video over Flash, but Netflix is clearly distinguishing itself from the Apple approach by putting the emphasis on cross-platform standards. Apple’s implementation of HTML5 for the iPad utilizes many proprietary bits and pieces even beyond its video implementation, a fact that Mozilla Director of Web Platform Christopher Blizzard ridiculed as “not intellectually honest.”

Netflix has already started to use HTML5 markup to change its UI more easily on devices like Sony’s PS3 and Apple’s iPhone.

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  1. Doesn’t sound like they’re going to use WebM.

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    1. WebM is another Google PR b*

      So much press for nothing.

      Even Microsoft is slowly giving up the excelent VC-1 in favor of H.264 (the only codec that count today)

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    2. Well, Mozilla isn’t going to use H.264, so we’ll have to see how the compromise will look like. I’d imagine we’re gonna see a standard with different fallback options, which means that Netflix on Firefox (and possibly Chrome and Opera) may well one day be based on WebM.

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  2. I don’t think there’s much (if any) proprietary stuff in the iPad’s HTML5 video streaming. Apple created their “HTTP Live Streaming” setup, but it’s fully documented and based on existing standards. It’s actually a very clever setup. The fact they’re part of the MPEG streaming group means they want a standard, and I doubt they care whether it’s based on their Live Streaming setup or not. They created theirs to fill a vacuum, which still exists for non-Apple products as nobody else has used their protocol yet.

    Their DRM is proprietary, but that’s only used for stuff sold from iTunes. Netflix, CNN, ABC, and the other iOS video streaming apps use HTTP Live Streaming. I suspect Apple would ditch the DRM if the video content providers allowed, as they did for music.

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  3. [...] recently ruled that it will only build standard versions of its iPlayer video catchup service. Even Netflix is pushing for a more standards-based approach to delivering video to different [...]

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