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Netflix support hitting Linux soon, with native playback capabilities

By April Taylor , Sep 20, 2014 07:48 AM EDT
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Linux has always been a bit tricky with Netflix, but a solution may be on its way to bring native Netflix playback capabilities to the open-source OS.

For a very long time, Netflix has relied on Microsoft's Silverlight, but Linux had virtually no support for the plugin. Silverlight is now fading, however, and Netflix is finally drawn to the HTML5 video streaming, which could make things a lot easier for Linux lovers.

Simply put, Netflix's shift from Microsoft's Silverlight to HTML5 would allow Ubuntu (or Mint, or Arch) to finally be able to natively play Netflix streams in the browser. Paul Adolf from Netflix posted an enticing message to Ubuntu developers, sparking hopes of native Netflix playback capabilities in Linux.

"Netflix will play with Chrome stable in 14.02 if NSS version 3.16.2 or greater is installed," Adolf said. "If this version is generally installed across 14.02, Netflix would be able to make a change so that users would no longer have to hack their User-Agent to play."

NSS stands for Network Security Services, which is a joint effort from Mozilla, Google, and RedHat. While end users would interact with it normally, NSS helps developers build applications in cases where security is of utmost importance. At the same time, NSS also protects the streams of intellectual property such as that from movie studios and TV networks, which is paramount for services such as Netflix.

The current stable version of Ubuntu is 14.04 and is running a slightly older version of the plug-in for now, but a security update should soon fix this. The next version is due in October, and the newer NSS should be on board. This means that starting next month, Linux could be able to natively support Netflix streams.

As Themukt reports, Marc Deslauriers of Canonical replied to Paul Adolf's message in regards to pushing the 3.17 version of NSS to the stable repositories.

"I was planning on bumping nss to 3.17 in the stable releases as a security update the next time a security issue needs to be fixed, or to update the bundled CA certificate list," Deslauries responded. "I'm not sure when that is going to be, but I might take a look at it next week since it hasn't been updated in a while and a bunch of 1024-bit CA certs got removed recently."

So far, some Linux users have managed to work around Netflix's restrictions through various hacks, but most users would prefer not to mess around with their browser's user agent. Netflix already works with a bunch of Linux-based devices such as Roku, Android, Chrome OS devices, and others, but being officially supported on desktop versions of Linux will surely be welcomed. We'll keep you up to date as soon as more concrete details surface, so stay tuned.

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