Netflix is looking to ditch its Silverlight-based video player for an HTML5 version that would work pretty much anywhere, but HTML5 isn’t quite up to the task just yet, according to the company.
Microsoft has already put Silverlight — once Microsoft’s much-hyped alternative to Adobe’s Flash Player — out to pasture. While Microsoft will continue to support Silverlight for some time, it will be retired come 2021.
That gives Netflix and others eight years to come up with an alternative. For its part Netflix wants to use HTML5, but HTML thus far lacks some key components Netflix needs, namely a way to generate media streams for playback, a cryptography protocol and, most controversially, DRM for streaming media.
All three components are, however, already draft proposals at the W3C and will likely be an official part of HTML before Silverlight disappears. The three things Netflix needs to bring its video player to HTML5 are the Media Source Extensions specification, the Web Cryptography API and the Encrypted Media Extensions specification, better known as DRM for the web.
Netflix has been working with Google to add support for all three — which the company refers to as “HTML5 Premium Video Extensions” — to Chrome and Chrome OS. For now the new Netflix player for Samsung’s Chromebook “uses the Media Source Extensions and Encrypted Media Extensions to adaptively stream protected content.”
Chrome still lacks support for the Web Cryptography API, so Netflix has developed a Pepper Flash plugin to handle that part of the equation for now. Eventually the company plans to remove the Flash element as soon as Chrome lands support for the Cryptography API.
At that point, says the Netflix blog, “we can begin testing our new HTML5 video player on Windows and OS X.”