Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why Netflix support is a Win for Desktop Linux

I am what you could call a practical free software advocate. This means that while I love open source software and everything it stands for, at the end of the day I really just need a computer that works for the tasks I need accomplish. Most people in the world are exactly like me, except they don't care in the slightest about free software. They just want a computer that works.

That is why things like Netflix and Steam officially supporting Linux as a desktop operating system is so important. You will get a lot more users who are willing to try an alternative OS when it does not require them to give up using the services they love to do so.

So do me a favor - stop complaining. Every time I see one of these large services start supporting desktop Linux, the complainers come out of the wood work with something else to whine about. With Steam it was DRM in the games that now ran natively. With Netflix folks are complaining about it requiring the use of Google's branded Chrome browser.

The truth is, change is gradual, but it is coming. So the next time a major content creator/provider opts to add support for our operating system of choice - lets just say thank you instead of complaining about the way in which they are adding that support.

The "year of the Linux desktop" is not something that is just going to magically happen when the clock strikes twelve at midnight on January first. It is something that is going to happen slowly over years worth of time. The addition of services like Netflix and Steam are fantastic wins in this slow change.


  1. Spotify added support too!

  2. Jeff,
    First, thanks for all you have done to help the Linux community. I agree with you about those complaining about their "free" software. I am just thankful that progress is being made. I am one who is open to trying out new Linux distros and I am in my 60's. I have two hard drives in my computer. One for MS Windows and one for Linux.

    Man in the Ozarks

  3. Jeff,

    Options are good, but what is the end goal? If the goal is simply to increase desktop Linux usage at all costs, then hooray. But what is the point of increasing the usage of Linux if it is just to become another Windows with the same proprietary lock-in? It is a slippery slope and caution is warranted.

    As long as you only want it to JUST WORK, then you might as well use Windows or Mac. At that point, what's the difference? Yes, most people fall into this category, but most people also have no clue to what degree software controls their lives or of the freedom that libre software can offer them.

    We need to end the stigmatizing of people who want software that respects their freedom and privacy as religious zealots. They're not.

    People have to WANT and DEMAND libre software to effect real change.

    1. What is the point of even having a computer though if you can't do the tasks you need to do on it? Do you know how little hardware actually meets FSF standard?

    2. Having a computer that doesn't do what you need is indeed pointless and the FSF takes an extreme position on software and hardware to be sure (Debian doesn't even meet their criteria).

      I'm not saying Netflix on Linux via Chrome is a negative thing, I'm just saying it may not be much of a positive thing either. Sure it might drive more people to use Linux, but does it help them understand to implications of libre vs proprietary software? Maybe, maybe not. If the end goal of using FOSS isn't to educate people with respect to their freedom with libre software (or the lack of it with proprietary software) then using Linux is no different than any other option and FOSS is pointless.

      To get an idea of where I'm coming from, consider a hypothetical scenario:
      Imagine tomorrow all the best DRM laden services enable access through proprietary browsers like Chrome. Imagine also that everyone on the planet switches to Linux overnight. Has anything been gained? Do people suddenly care about the implications of libre vs. proprietary software? Are they more likely to find out? Possibly, but they are probably just as likely to continue accepting DRM laden, privacy stealing, corporately controlled and approved software as their only option because anything else would be inconvenient. In that case, nothing has been gained and everyone was just as well off with Windows.

      Of course pragmatism is unavoidable even for people who care about FOSS. When there is no libre software option, we have to decide if the task we want to accomplish is important enough that we are willing to give up some freedom to accomplish it. But taking pragmatism to the extreme and pretending there is no a trade-off in choosing proprietary software because most people don't care or because the libre option is less convenient is wrong. The trade-off is very real.

  4. Both Chrome and Netflix are proprietary software.
    Chrome is Opensource while in development (chromium) but when google gets it and adds its spyware, background big data collecting software plus whatever else it gets closed.
    Netflix also supports and wants DRM in HTML5 taking your freedom.

    Just go buy a copy of Windows if that is your thing ..you are already embracing proprietary software that takes away your user rights and freedom ..cheerio :)

    1. There are people who exist who use Linux because it is - wait for it - a better product than the alternatives. When there is an FOSS alternative that is better than Netflix and Chrome I would switch to using these as well.

    2. Plenty of other services to choose from that allow you to rent movies and watch TV-shows, some you can watch through Totem (GNOME Movie player).
      Netflix is cheap at only £5.99p a month ..so basically you want Netlix because it is a cheap alternative and for that you will sacrifice your user rights and freedom for a cheap service. lol !

    3. Please provide links to other resources that offer an online streaming option with as many popular media titles as Netflix has.

    4. > "There are people who exist who use Linux because it is - wait for it - a better product than the alternatives. When there is an FOSS alternative that is better than Netflix and Chrome I would switch to using these as well."

      Accepting the proprietary option as sufficient helps ensure there will not be a FOSS alternative. Why would someone create one if everyone is perfectly willing to trade their freedom and privacy for the privilege of paying for a proprietary service? Certainly you are free to wait and see and ride the coattails of someone who develops a libre solution, but if everyone did that, nothing would ever change for the better.

      > "Please provide links to other resources that offer an online streaming option with as many popular media titles as Netflix has."

      I'm not sure there is such a thing. That doesn't mean using a proprietary solution is worth it though. Only you can decide if your convenience is more important than your control over the things on your computer, but that doesn't mean people who value freedom over the convenience of a streaming movie service are any less right or important than you and their opinions are every bit as valid as yours.

      You seem to want more people to use Linux but if, as you claim, it is purely because it is a better product and not because libre vs. proprietary is important to you, then why do you care at all what anyone uses?

    5. You could always buy a box set - or ask a friend to go half’s on one.
      Then after you have watched it, you are 'free' to re-sell it to get some of your money back, or even pass it around to friends and family to share.

      Plenty of alternatives exist so you can watch movies and TV shows without having to install proprietary software on your computer.
      I suppose Netflix is convenient ..but at what price ?

    6. Comments like this really show how little you understand what end users actually need/want.

    7. ..and you know everything 'they need and want' ok

    8. I know what the dozens of end users I help use Linux want yes.

    9. There will ALWAYS be a quicker easier solution to certain things via proprietary software. The companies that own much of the content and want your money and control of your information will ensure that.

      That question is: Do you only offer users a way to satisfy their immediate hunger for a product, or do you help teach them there are alternatives?

      It's like giving a fat guy a McDonald's hamburger vs. teaching him about better nutrition. he probably doesn't want to hear it and will take the fast food because it is convenient (JUST WORKS). But it's still a bad choice. It may be his choice to make, but that certainly doesn't make people who are more conscious of the decisions they're making a bunch of complainers. They're just better educated. You do people a disservice by not helping them to understand the point of FOSS software. I don't see how anyone could claim to be a FOSS advocate and think otherwise.

  5. I'm with others here on FOSS being more important than convenience. As others have stated, I think we (Linux users) need to be careful about using proprietary software/services on our computers for privacy reasons.

    Most users don't have a clue about what they're giving up when using proprietary software/services.