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Netflix stands behind Microsoft Silverlight

The online DVD rental site is unable to pinpoint the cause of glitches plaguing users of its streaming service. Many users blame Microsoft.

Netflix is trying to locate the source of a series of glitches that some users of the company's streaming service are blaming on Microsoft's Silverlight video player.

"The new player is far better. It's faster, more reliable and provides greater stability. The vast majority of Netflix members have had a great experience."
--Steve Swasey, Netflix spokesman

Over the weekend, a steady stream of angry messages was posted to Netflix's blog. The complaints range from choppy video, to audio that doesn't sync with the picture, to grainy image quality.

The complaints began accumulating soon after the Web's largest video-rental service switched to Microsoft's Silverlight in November. The posts appear to have trickled in until last weekend, when a score of customers began reporting problems.

"The quality of the video looks like bad VHS," wrote someone on the Netflix who identified themselves as Steve-O. "I use an Acer Netbook over my home network and the quality is poor. Also, I cannot even see the button to make the video full screen (using Acer One Netbook with Firefox browser). However, I imagine this will make the quality even worse. What a disaster."

Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey said the company, which now has more than 10 million subscribers, has yet to pinpoint the cause of the malfunctions. He added that only a small percentage of customers have complained but that the company continues to look for a fix.

Swasey defended Silverlight. He said the company has received mostly kudos from customers after switching to the software last fall. A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment.

"The new player is far better," Swasey said. "It's faster, more reliable and provides greater stability. The vast majority of Netflix members have had a great experience."

The other major complaint from Netflix customers who posted to the company blog this weekend is that it wasn't made clear there was no way to opt out once they switched to the Silverlight player.

"I certainly feel that Netflix was not forthright in getting me to 'upgrade' to the new viewer (Silverlight)," said someone who posted under the name Jerry. "I don't have a beef with Microsoft. I'll support most technologies that work appropriately--and that is where we have come to a problem. The new viewer simply does not work well enough."

Silverlight has received mixed reviews in the past year. NBC chose Silverlight to stream video of the 2008 Summer Olympics and the company won some favorable reviews. For the games' opening ceremony, Silverlight helped deliver more than 70 million page views in one evening.

But after the conclusion of the games, NBC went back to using Flash. Another setback for Microsoft came when Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the group that streams baseball games over the Web, decided to drop Silverlight.