Netflix drops Silverlight in favor of HTML5

Onerous browser plug-in may be primary reason for move
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Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) has had enough of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Silverlight media player and is replacing it with three HTML5 extensions--Media Source, Encrypted Media and Web Cryptography API--in an effort, it said, to smooth the video browsing experience by sublimating the need for plug-ins.

Silverlight, a plug-in for Windows and OS-X browser streaming, had been positioned by Microsoft as competitive--or even a replacement for--Adobe Flash. It hasn't happened for a variety of reasons, including the difficulty involved with loading the browser into some platforms. Microsoft launched Silverlight 5 in late 2011 but has not provided a date for a release of Silverlight 6, leading some industry observers to believe it is finished with the platform.

Netflix was among those questioning where Silverlight is headed.

A blog post by Anthony Park, director of engineering, and Mark Watson, director of streaming standards, praised Silverlight for its "high-quality streaming experience" but tellingly added, "since Microsoft announced the end of life of Silverlight 5 in 2021, we need to find a replacement some time within the next 8 years."

Reading the blog post more deeply, it appears that Netflix has been ready to make the switch for a while in an effort to improve on the cumbersome--and often impossible--Silverlight browser plug-in experience.

"Over the last year, we've been collaborating with other industry leaders on three W3C initiatives which are positioned to solve this problem of playing premium video content directly in the browser without the need for browser plugins such as Silverlight. We call these, collectively, the 'HTML5 Premium Video Extensions,'" the pair wrote.

Other evidence that Netflix had been planning the move for a while was a notation by the Netflix bloggers that the online video purveyor has "been working with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to implement support for the HTML5 Premium Video Extensions in the Chrome browser, and we've just started using this technology on the Samsung ARM-Based Chromebook."

The move also might spell better things for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) users who have been critical of Silverlight, according to a Computerworld story.

"Moving to HTML5 is important to someone like Netflix, which wants to be as platform agnostic as possible," Gartner analyst Mike McGuire said in the Computerworld article. "HTML5 has matured to the point where most in the industry are moving to it."

Including, now--and perhaps earlier than that--Netflix.

For more:
- Netflix posted this blog entry
- and Computerworld carried this story

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