Saturday, December 18, 2010

Netflix and FOSS Hypocrites

Perhaps you saw a couple weeks ago Netflix's post touting their advocacy of open source software. They provide a hefty list of projects they utilize and contribute back to:

Hudson, Hadoop, Hive, Honu, Apache, Tomcat, Ant, Ivy, and Cassandra

It's a shame there aren't any video streaming programs on that list. If you use Linux and are familiar with Netflix then odds are you are aware of (what at this point feels like an age old argument) the issue of getting Netflix's instant stream functional on your Linux system. In case you are not aware of this dilemma, in short:

It does not work

You see, even with all of the FOSS projects Netflix supports they choose to use the DRM ridden Silverlight plugin to stream video over the Internet. This prevents the streaming service from functioning on FOS operating systems (Linux, BSD, ect.) at this current point in time. Why the lack of support? Some will say Linux has a small market share so is not worth the extra time it takes to support the platform.

Personally, I find it a bit absurd that they can find the time to support Windows, OSX, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, iOS, and now even the Linux based Android and still not provide a general streaming solution that would work across all PC platforms. As Netflix themselves stated, it is often cheaper to employ an FOSS solution to remedy software needs - so why they do not use an FOSS medium to stream their media is beyond me (or heck even a closed sourced solution such as flash that is cross platform).

In my opinion, Netflix loves FOSS just about as much as Microsoft does. They see it as something that can help their bottom line and nothing more. Don't get me wrong, I understand companies need to make money - but in my opinion if you are only utilizing FOSS to turn a larger profit, then you are falling far short of realizing the true reason this type of software exists.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. It is my understanding that it is not up to Netflix on what streaming technology they use, but the content providers. Basically, if they want to stream these movies, an approved DRM solution must be used. And at this time, Silverlight is the only approved web browser plugin on the list.

    Correct me if I'm wrong.

  2. I'd never heard that before Andrew, even if they are required to use DRM - Hulu can stream via flash then so can Netflix IMO

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  4. @Andrew -

    Here's the thing: netflix aleady streams to Roku - which is linux. This completely shoots down the argument that they are unable to do so.

    I've been a netflix customer for years but I've given up on them ever supporting me - the official netflix streaming solution for us linux users is apparently "FOAD!"

    So, my todo list for the remainder of the year includes dumping netflix and signing up for Hulu plus.

  5. Netflix streams to LG TVs and Blu-Ray players with Netcast. These devices run Linux. There is no technical reason why you can not stream to your Linux computer.

  6. There's no denying that Linux and FOSS is steadily becoming a force that can't be ignored. If you look at how Broadcom open-sourced their current 802.11n drivers and all future ones and the fact that Adobe has adopted VDPAU and crystal hd support in flash with their stage video API. Adobe could easily have ignored Linux but they didn't. Nvidia and ATI continue to support Linux with proprietary drivers that work well, I just wish ATI would just swallow their pride and adopt VDPAU and stop horsing around with the obsolete XvBA.

    It all points to the same trends but there will be growing pains as the movie industry continues to drag their feet in their old ways like the music industry did recently and now DRM free downloads are aplenty. I have NO problem paying for that content because I can use it on any OS and in any player. DRM sucks and NOBODY except the few remaining knuckleheads in the world wants it.

    It's a shame Nvidia and ATI won't open source and/or provide full documentation to the FOSS community because then Linux would, in time, have drivers that stomp all over their win/osx counterparts and suddenly Linux is the workstation OS to have.