Linux Sucks because it Can’t Play Netflix

Linux sucks because it can’t play Netflix. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this said or seen this written.

Not to be pedantic or anything, but there’s nothing about Linux that makes it so that Netflix can’t work. Netflix doesn’t work for a very specific reason. Microsoft.

Netflix CAN Work in Linux

First of all, it’s quite obvious that Netflix works perfectly well with Linux. We see examples of it all the time. Netflix on Android is one such example. Other places we see Netflix humming along happily in a Linux environment is on Roku and Boxee players. Further, other media services work perfectly in Linux. Hulu and Youtube are two such services. No issues there. So why doesn’t Netflix work in Linux?

Microsoft makes sure it Doesn’t

When Netflix first started streaming movies over the Internet, the biggest concern for people selling the movies was piracy. Even for services like Youtube, ripping the media is fairly trivial. To make sure that movies weren’t just being ripped from Netflix and distributed for free elsewhere, DRM (Digital Rights Management) was applied. Netflix chose a particular type of DRM called PlayReady. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, PlayReady is made by Microsoft.

PlayReady is actually meant for portable devices, but Microsoft incorporated it into SilverLight. SilverLight is an application framework also made by Microsoft. PlayReady is licensed out, which is why other devices play Netflix movies without a problem. There’s a version of SilverLight for Macintosh, and other devices like Boxee and Roku have licensed PlayReady for decoding.

Since Linux is open source, a license can not be included in the operating system. There have been several attempts to license PlayReady for a Linux environment, one of the most prominent being MoonLight. MoonLight was a Linux version of SilverLight being developed by the Mono team. The Mono team was part of Novell, which was bought out (with quite a lot of help from Microsoft by the way) by Attachmate. After the purchase of Novell, Mono was almost immediately put out to pasture.

Before Novell’s purchase by Attachmate, the Mono team made several attempts to license PlayReady for use in Linux. Each time, their request for a license was turned down by Microsoft. The reason given for this denial was that Linux and MoonLight were open source, and as such inherently insecure.

Is there Hope?

That’s really a good question. Microsoft is holding the key right now. There are a couple ways that Linux users may gain (legal) access to Netflix. One, a 3rd party application may license the technology and create a Linux client with it (similar to MiniTube). This client would have to be closed source, which I’m sure would rankle some, but it would finally bring Netflix to Linux.

A second possibility is that Netflix may decide to move to a different version of DRM than PlayReady. If Netflix were to imitate Hulu, Netflix would just work on Linux. No further work required.

A third, and allow me to say remarkably distant, possibility is that Microsoft could open source PlayReady to the community. It could happen, and it’s possible that I could sprout wings tomorrow and fly to work. I won’t discount that possibility, but I’m doubting there will be much change to my morning commute in the near future. Barring one of those three possibilities becoming reality, Linux users will have to live without Netflix for the foreseeable future.

Is the lack of Netflix in Linux a deal breaker for you? Tell us why in the comments section…

Linux Sucks because it Can’t Play Netflix
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  • Kenneth Starks

    Some of you will want to get out your Righteous Indignation and have it at the ready because I am sure you have honed it to surgical sharpness just for posts like this.

    I quit my subscription to Netflix a while back. Previously I ran Netflix via my Windows 7 install via Virtual Box and it worked flawlessly, but not many people have a legitimate license for a Windows OS laying around. Fortunately, I did so that is how I spent it. But the fact that I had to purchase and run a Microsoft product on my Linux machine chapped my nether-regions greatly. That’s why I now watch pretty much what I like, when I want and I don’t suffer Netflix, commercials or any other “tailored message” while doing it.

    Fastpasstv.ms is considered a “pirate site”. Gasp…oh no….not a Pirate Site!

    Who the frick cares. While I do torrent the occasional movie via TOR, most of my recreational viewing is programs like Fringe, Warehouse 13, Haven, Breaking Bad, Supernatural, etc. I’m not always available to watch them in real time and probably wouldn’t anyway because I despise commercials more than Typhus. Besides, non of the “legitimate” options such as Netflix carries them until weeks later (mostly anyway) On FastpassTV, by the time the show airs during PST, it is already up on many of the affiliate FastpassTV servers and ready for viewing in CST.

    Now sure, FastpassTV is a “rouge” site. They’ve been shut down countless times but they’ve finally found a safe location, known to be unfriendly to US copyright law. It would seem to be safe for quite some time, So, Netflix and Amazon can try their best but until I get to watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it and HOW I want to watch it….they get zero dollars from me. I am more than happy to don my eye patch and three-point hat. Actually, from a legal standpoint, I am not really doing anything illegal from an actionable standpoint…I am consuming media from a freely-available source on the Internet. So bend them right in the neck.

    When they offer what I want at a pricepoint that is at least halfway agreeable, I will continue my viewing habits…….sans the commercials I despise.

    And a word of advice. Should you want to peruse the thousands of movies and TV shows on FastpassTV, arm your firefox browser with two extensions – Adblock plus and Ghostery. As well, note that the best three servers of the many offered on each show are Videoweed, Putlocker and Gorillavid. Should there be an unbearable amount of buffering, either try another server or use the video downloadhelper extension that allows the mp4 or flv to be downloaded for later viewing.

    You’re welcome.

    • http://www.refugeeks.com/ Kev Quirk

      Thanks for the very in depth comment Kenneth. I’ll be sure to check out Fatpasstv. As you say, I pay for a UK TV license and therefore I am well within my rights to stream TV programs that would be covered by this license within the realms of the law.

      If I start to download movies – that’s a different matter (not that I would ever do this of course). So people can use this ‘pirate’ site totally legally.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  • shadowguy14

    It doesn’t matter to me, I have my DVDs mailed to me, and I have Hulu

  • http://twitter.com/Daniel_Afanador Daniel Afanador

    That’s a problem for people like me that live outside United States. We have an “ilegal” option called Cuevana that’s free but since Megaupload were shut down some tv shows and movies are not available anymore. What I don’t understand yet is why a website that is free and that works because people like to share and help each other can stream and Netflix, for which I pay 7 bucks per month, can’t. I don’t even understand why Netflix works in Android, that finally is Linux, and not in the, I think, most popular Linux distribution: Ubuntu. Of course the author explained the technical reasons for my question but what I mean is how people that take the decisions inside Netflix can’t see what we users see. Actually what they do acting like this is making linux users to use services like hulu, crackle or cuevana for us who live in latin america. Meanwhile I’ll have to restart my computer everytime I wan’t to use netflix to start it with windows or I can use my cell phone too, but none of these two options is what Linux user prefer. This people that complains about why people download “ilegal” copyright content is the same people that some times have the solution in their hands and do nothing

  • zezba9000

    There is also
    http://www.crackle.com/

    Netflix better get it together. The developers at MS rock, the marketing team is a bunch of old and outdated robots…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=544927442 Lisa Grigaliunas

    Frankly I think it should be, “Netflix sucks because it won’t run in Linux” not the other way around….fools. What a dumb thing to toss an awesome, free system because of Netflix…psh.

    • http://www.refugeeks.com/ Kev Quirk

      Lisa, the title to the article is sarcastic. Everyone on this website is very much a Linux lover, especially Mike, the writer of this article. Maybe you should read the article more carefully. :)

  • David Roland

    apparently, nobody heard the news

    http://www.compholio.com/netflix-desktop/

  • asdx

    Just go to http://thepiratebay.sx and forget about netflix, this will show them.

    • http://www.refugeeks.com/ Kev Quirk

      I don’t think piracy is the answer asdx. Let me use a “real world” analogy…

      Let’s say your car breaks down, a mechanic comes and looks at your car but he can’t get a compatible part to fix the problem. Would you just go and steal your neighbours car and use that? Of course you wouldn’t because that’s not how people act.

      So why should it be any different just because you’re sat behind a computer?