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Netflix plans to dump Silverlight for HTML5 streaming

Movie-rental service plans to switch its streaming over to the emerging video format as soon as three WC3 initiatives are complete.

Netflix's streaming may soon pull the plug on the Silverlight plug-in.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Due to eroding support for browser plug-ins, Netflix is making plans to move its streaming service from Silverlight over to the emerging HTML5 video format.

The movie-streaming service has used the Microsoft plug-in to deliver streaming content to Windows and Mac OS X computers since 2008. But after Microsoft announced last month that it would end support of the browser versions of the plug-in by 2021, it became clear Netflix needs to start focusing on a replacement.

While the solution may present into through Google's efforts to make Netflix available on the ARM-based Samsung Chromebook, the movie service has already been working on long-term solutions.

Anthony Park, Netflix's director of engineering, and Mark Watson, Netflix's director of streaming standards, today reiterated the disadvantages of plug-ins and the efforts to move beyond plug-ins altogether.

"We're interested to solve these problems as we move to our next generation of video playback on the Web," the pair wrote today in a company blog post. "Over the last year, we've been collaborating with other industry leaders on three W3C initiatives which are positioned to solve this problem of playing premium video content directly in the browser without the need for browser plug-ins such as Silverlight."

Before that can happen, Netflix will need wider adoption of what it calls "HTML5 Premium Video Extensions," which includes DRM encryption, delivering streams via JavaScript, and a cryptography extension to encrypt and decrypt communication between JavaScript and the Netflix servers.

Two of the extensions have already been incorporated into a Chromebook, the pair wrote in their blog post. When the cryptography extension is directly available in Chrome, Netflix will begin testing the HTML5 player in Windows and OS X.