Silverlight’s Twilight, and the Dawn of HTML5 Video
Netflix announced last month that it is finally moving towards its goal of ditching the Silverlight plugin, with a little help from Microsoft.
Background: Netflix currently uses Silverlight (a Microsoft product) plugin to deliver streaming video to most web browsers. Netflix announced their intent to move away from Silverlight in favor of HTML5 in a blog post back in April, after Microsoft listed only 8 more years on Silverlight’s lifecycle.
And that wasn’t the only reason: Not all browsers support plugins, particularly on mobile devices. And even on supported devices, some consumers view plugins as a security risk and avoid installing them.
So for the past couple years, Netflix has been involved with three W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) initiatives, collectively known as the “HTML5 Premium Video Extensions.” The general goal is to develop specifications that will make it possible to play premium video directly in a web browser, without the need for consumers to download proprietary plugins such as Silverlight or Flash.
The W3C initiatives involve three key areas: Playback and Adaptive Streaming, Digital Rights Management (DRM), and Encryption.
Meanwhile, the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) initiative covers DRM implementation by providing standardized support for various DRM systems. (Notably, Leslie adds, the DRM-protected HTML5 stream is an area where multichannel video providers, steeped in how to satisfy contractual agreements with the program networks they offer, consistently grumble about monkey wrenches.)
One of the main hurdles for Netflix is getting these Premium Video Extensions implemented on all browsers – Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer. And this is where we’re finally starting to see some progress.
Back in April, with Google’s help, the Premium Video Extensions were implemented for the first time on the Samsung ARM-Based Chromebook. This isn’t a complete implementation; WebCrypto hasn’t yet been implemented in Chrome so a Netflix-developed API handles those operations for now. But once Google’s WebCrypto implementation is complete, testing can begin for Chrome on Windows and OS X.
Notably, and to the “with a little help from Microsoft” in the title of this post, Internet Explorer 11 is the first to implement all three of the Premium Video Extensions. If you’re running the preview of Windows 8.1, you can now watch Netflix using HTML5. If not, or if you prefer Firefox or Safari, you’ve still got some waiting to do. But if the current uptick is any indication, maybe it won’t be long.
Regardless, HTML5 is a hot topic and a big, big deal across the video ecosystem. Netflix’s moves are noteworthy, but not an isolated achievement by any stretch.
Preview: CTAM Summit, SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, Orlando
For someone passionate about making technology approachable to non-technical people, this week is a grand slam of cable conventions: CTAM Summit and the SCTE Cable Tec-Expo. Marketers and engineers, all in one place! Nirvana!
And hello again, Orlando. This location means one thing right off the bat: Brush up on your Full Service Network history (see Craig Leddy’s take on this here: http://www.multichannel.com/archive/orlando-revisited/139794), because you’ll likely hear more than a few nostalgic and/or instructive anecdotes about it.
For the tech-interested at CTAM Summit, check out self-professed gadget guru, author (“Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation”) and new-ish CEO of CableLabs, Phil McKinney, who kicks off a “Products Consumers Crave” panel on Tuesday at 9. The session features chief technologists from Comcast, Cox and Charter (full disclosure: moderated by yours truly.)
In the topic mix: What technologists want from marketers; the operational impact of “service velocity;” maneuvering a software-heavy workplace, and the parallel industrial shift to “agile” development; cable’s changing role in innovation.
That’s all on the front part of the week. Then, on Wednesday, the marketers pull out, and the techies pull in.
What to watch for, news-wise, at this year’s SCTE Cable Tec Expo: Lots of detail about the next chapter in cable modems, now officially named “DOCSIS 3.1.”
Why: A session added to the Thursday morning schedule (11-12:30) aims to go long on the constituent components of DOCSIS 3.1. It’s all about wringing more capacity out of existing hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks, by tweaking things like modulation and error correction. (Yes, you can expect a full translation in a future edition.)
One of the great things about Cable Tec-Expo: Session repetition. This year’s technical workshops look chewy, and many of them repeat throughout the three-day tech-fest. Even with the session repeats, though, the 2012 lineup makes one want a clone.
On my short-list: “Is Your Network Capable of Handling the Next Generation of Services?”, “Slaying the Bandwidth Consumption Monster,” “Fast Times: Speed Tiers and Their Impact on Your Network,” and “Take 5: HTML5 in Cable.”
Also hot-looking (as hot goes): “Advanced Encoding for an Untethered World,” “CCAP Trial: The Verdict,” and “Springing New Leaks: A Look at New Sources of Interference.”
If there was an award for best session title (because that’s what the industry needs! More awards! ;-), it’d have to go to “Bandwidth Hunger Games.” Best acronym overload: “EPON, EPoC, DPoE, RFoG, DOCSIS – Beyond the Alphabet Soup.” (A typo in the online agenda makes it all the better: “FRoG.”)
Hope to see you there!
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.