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Netflix plans its move from Microsoft Silverlight to HTML5 video

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House of Cards
House of Cards

Last month Google announced that Netflix was now available on ARM-based Samsung Chromebooks thanks to the use of HTML5 video — and now the streaming service has outlined its larger plans to eventually move to the format for all computers. Currently, Netflix primarily uses the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in when streaming video to web browsers, but Netflix's Anthony Park and Mark Watson point out in a blog post that the current solution really can't stand. Plug-ins don't play well with with most mobile browsers, they can be cumbersome for users, and perhaps most importantly, Microsoft itself may not develop a new version of Silverlight beyond the current release.

The solution is HTML5 video, but that relatively young technology requires further development to meet the needs — and DRM requirements — of a service like Netflix. According to the blog post, Netflix has been collaborating on three W3C initiatives that together will provide the required functionality for streaming video services. Dubbed the "HTML5 Premium Video Extensions," they include an extension that will allow the company to handle its delivery streams via JavaScript, another that will allow DRM encryption (perhaps the biggest obstacle for HTML5 video's broad adoption), and a cryptography extension that will allow Netflix to make sure any communication between its JavaScript code and servers remains secure.

According to Netflix, the Chrome OS version of Netflix uses the first two extensions in the suite already, but the third hasn't been built into Chrome at the moment so Netflix is using its own plug-in instead. Once Google builds that third extension into the browser, however, the door will be open for Netflix to start testing HTML5 video on a wide array of computers.