Jul 262013


Netflix published a post on their technology blog entitled, “HTML5 Video at Netflix.” In this post, it was revealed the Netflix is planning to switch from Microsoft Silverlight to HTML5 to deliver Netflix movies. For years, Netflix has used Silverlight and for years users of Linux and other operating systems were unable to use Netflix because of their Silverlight use. In the blog post, Netflix stated that they were planning to switch because Microsoft plans to end support for Silverlight 5 in the year 2021.

What is Microsoft Silverlight?

Silverlight is Microsoft’s response to Flash. While it is designed to offer a number of programmatic features, Silverlight is most often used for delivering video. Yahoo!, CBS and other major companies have turned to Silverlight in the past. But, many are now moving away and turning to other technologies. Silverlight is proprietary in nature, and it is not supported by all operating systems and browsers. Linux users, for example, have been complaining about lacking native access to Netflix for years. Many experts blame Silverlight for limited Netflix compatibility on less common platforms.

What is HTML5?

HTML is the markup language used to design websites, and it has evolved considerably over the years. HTML5 is simply the latest iteration of this progression. One of the biggest changes to HTML5, however, is the inclusion of support for video. Instead of having to rely on Flash, Silverlight, or other technologies, HTML5 will provide standardized options that are open and that will be implemented in a similar fashion across all operating systems and browsers. Although it has taken years to determine how HTML5 will deliver video, consensus has been reached, and many browsers now offer support for HTML5 video.

What are the Benefits of the Switch to HTML5?

In the short term, the benefits of switching to HTML5 will be minimal. Most browsers support Silverlight, so Netflix will not be able to access many more users by making the switch. In the long term, however, the benefits will begin to become clear. HTML5 will be the industry standard for video delivery, so all browsers will support it. Silverlight, on the other hand, is a proprietary technology that will only exist as long as Microsoft supports it. In recent years, Microsoft has shown a reluctance to pledge long-term support for Silverlight. The stability will make HTML5 the default choice for those wishing to stream video to the masses. In addition, HTML5 will offer video encryption. If this encryption was not included, Netflix would not be able to make the switch without risking contracts with various copyright-holders.

What are the Drawbacks of the Switch?

Switching to HTML5 will undoubtedly cost Netflix a considerable amount of money. Millions of people use Netflix, and the amount of bandwidth used by the video giant can be hard to comprehend. As a result, the switch will have to be done as carefully as possible as small mistakes can lead to large expenses for Netflix and its users. In addition, there will likely be bugs along the way, and Netflix will have to set aside a considerable amount of money to provide support for its users. Despite these drawbacks, however, most experts believe that this switch is necessary and will ultimately lead to better compatibility and easier support. For most Netflix users, the switch should be transparent, and those who simply want their video to arrive like normal should not worry about the transition.

Netflix will remain an industry giant for the foreseeable future, but industry experts have long criticized the company for choosing Silverlight to deliver video. Thanks to the advanced capabilities of HTML5, however, the company can now rely on industry standards instead of proprietary technology. In addition, Netflix will be able to support the growing diversity of operating systems and web browsers that have been coming to the market in recent years.

Matthew Schmoldt
This article was written by Matthew Schmoldt. He loves technology and gadgets. He runs a website where he rhymes about cool things to buy online (ohthethingsyoucanbuy.com). He is passionate about the Internet and about sports. Follow him on Google +.
Matthew Schmoldt
Matthew Schmoldt

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