Netflix transitions to HTML5, moves away from Microsoft Silverlight

Online video provider Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is accelerating its transition to HTML5-based streaming, a move that should improve load times for viewers and make 4K video streaming easier to deliver.

The SVOD service announced on its tech blog Tuesday that HTML5 streaming is available in the Safari browser on OS X Yosemite, an Apple operating system still in beta testing and scheduled to launch this fall.

It's also available on IE 11 for Windows 8.1, Netflix's Anthony Park and Mike Watson said in the blog post. Netflix made the switch from Microsoft's Silverlight to HTML5 in the latest Internet Explorer browser version last fall.

For users, HTML5 streaming on their Macs or PCs means they will no longer need to download a plugin to view Netflix movies and TV series.

VentureBeat reports that Netflix was able to make the change for Safari because Apple implemented all three HTML5 Premium Video Extensions in OS X Yosemite.

"We're especially excited that Apple implemented the Media Source Extensions (MSE) using their highly optimized video pipeline on OS X," Park and Watson wrote.

But HTML5 has its downside: It's not the most secure technology.

"HTML5 provides far more access to the computer's resources than its predecessor. It offers capabilities like location awareness, local data storage, graphics rendering and system information queries, which are built in and quite powerful," James Lyne, director of technology strategy for Sophos, wrote in a company blog post about the software's security risks.

The increased capabilities make life easier for users, but mean that HTML5 browsers contain much more sensitive data in order to accomplish tasks more easily--making the browser a direct gateway to user data.

"The enhancements are great, but they radically change the attack model for the browser," Lyne added.

To that end, Park and Watson said, Apple also implemented two security features: Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) to protect premium content and Web Cryptography API (WebCrypto) to encrypt and decrypt data between the JavaScript application and Netflix's servers.

Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are most likely the next targets for Netflix's HTML5 transition, the VentureBeat article said.

For more:
- VentureBeat has this story
- see this Netflix tech blog post
- see this Sophos post

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