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Netflix: No Plans for HTML5 Video

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Don’t expect Netflix (s NFLX) to start supporting HTML5 video playback anytime soon, according to the company’s cloud architect Adrian Cockcroft. That’s because without a good way to protect the streaming video available through its Watch Instantly service, the company won’t be able to make content available using the nascent web standard.

Cockcroft yesterday wrote with some excitement on his personal blog about Netflix’s plans to begin using HTML5 in its codebase, which some news outlets took to mean HTML video. But in an update to his post, Cockcroft says that not only are HTML5 video plans not in the works, but that the web standard lacks the tools necessary to protect the streaming video content. As he explains:

“I was thinking of HTML5 features that let us build very cool user interfaces with drag-and-drop, canvas transforms etc. for the web site, and for embedded TV devices specifically. The Silverlight player is used for PC/Mac playback only, and the basic HTML5 Video doesn’t have a viable DRM solution at this point.”

Netflix relies on DRM providers such as Irdeto and Widevine to help it protect streaming content as it’s being delivered to PCs and other connected devices. Without such protection, the subscription video company wouldn’t be able to get the rights to content available through its Watch Instantly streaming service, so supporting a format without the necessary tools in place would be a bad move on Netflix’s part.

Netflix is hardly alone in its concern over the maturity of the HTML standard, particularly as it pertains to streaming video. Last week, in a blog post about new features that Hulu was rolling out, VP of Product Eugene Wei wrote that HTML5 video playback would not be included. In particular, Wei cited the lack of content security, advertising and reporting tools available for HTML5 video as reasons for not supporting the web standard.

But other video publishers are showing more willingness to use the HTML5 video tag — whether the supporting tools are ready or not. Due to demand for video on the iPad (S AAPL), companies like CBS (s CBS) have big plans for making their content available using HML5 video and H.264 encoding. In a video interview with NewTeeVee, CBS Interactive GM Anthony Soohoo said that would have the entire slate of web video available on PCs also available on the iPad.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: How Startups Can Cash In On the iPad’s Weaknesses (subscription required)

13 Responses to “Netflix: No Plans for HTML5 Video”

  1. DrClue

    Actually there are (although not built-in) , fairly reasonable
    ways to implement protection on video streams in the HTML5
    video context that would prevent the stream from being
    reasonably rendered elsewhere, even if the URL was openly
    published and codecs without any DRM were used.

    This is not rocket science , but simply accepting the
    (it can’t be done) response from folks who would rather not
    bother to do their job just means somebody else will eat that

    If I know how to do it , one can bet that others
    will have it figured out soon as well.

  2. This HTML5 being pre-mature looks like a catch 22 problem. For a spec/standard to get a user base, it needs to be immediately useful. To be immediately useful, it needs to focus on some problem manageably small, instead of being over-ambitious. From there, it needs to grow its scope.

    Can anyone give me any pointer how to grow a spec/standard organically?


  3. “Netflix is hardly alone in its concern over the maturity of the HTML standard, particularly as it pertains to streaming video.”

    For apps, I can appreciate the value of “release early and release often.”

    But for published API’s, standards, and platforms, that may not apply. As it is said in “Breaking Windows,” how quickly you adopt pre-mature technologies seperates boys from men.


  4. The irony of the entire discussion is of course that the DRM technologies the Netflix currently relies on have already been cracked. Unfortunately, as long as the industry has to put decoders in the hand of consumer’s, this will be the norm.

    A better strategy is to make content distribution convenient and reasonably priced and rely on the basic honesty on the majority of you customers.

    • onecallednick

      Agreed, Ray. Like I said, since I can access the same titles anyway with my netflix subscription, I don’t feel bad about torrenting things I want to watch. It’s just a pain in the neck, so mostly I don’t do it. torrents are cross-platform, so unless netflix wants to lose business to a much-less competitive product service-wise, they should make themselves cross-platform as well.

  5. onecallednick

    This irks me to no end, and honestly I’d just start torrenting stuff if it was half as easy as using netflix: watch instantly. Netflix is the ONLY reason I keep winblows around. Isn’t there some way to get GNU/Linux support? Maybe when the Android app comes out someone can hack it onto standard desktop distros.
    Incidentally, here’s a petition for people to sign if they want to watch netflix on GNU/Linux.