Quite some time ago I made it quite clear how I felt about the state of Linux and Netflix streaming. I went so far as to call the VP of marketing on the carpet to nail down the reasons why (Silverlight and DRM). It seemed all was in vain, until this weekend.
A fellow Linux zealot, Benjamin Kerensa, contacted me to inform me that, while attending OSCON, he spoke with a pair of Netflix engineers who spilled some pretty cool beans. Those beans were that, within the next twelve months, Netflix streaming will finally arrive on the Linux platform. That's right...streaming goodness delivered directly to our OS of choice. Why is it taking so long? Simple — it's not a top priority, so they aren't dumping a ton of resource into the project. And that's fine with me, so long as it's coming...and it seems that it is.
This was also followed up (by a different contact) that a Chromium plugin is in the works that will enable Netflix streaming on Linux. This can be seen here; however, it does seem that is a ChromeOS plugin and not a Chromium browser plugin. If anyone can verify this particular "rumor" here, it would be greatly appreciated. I ask this simply because every bit of information I can find regarding Netflix and Chrome relates to the ChromeOS and not Chromium Browser on Linux. Obviously Netflix wants to be able to stream to Android devices — seeing as how they are now outselling most other mobile platforms.
But regardless of the Chromium issue, I have to say...how cool is this? The Linux community cries out and the corporate world is actually listening. Of course it also helps that the Netflix engineers are Ubuntu fanatics, so we had them on our side the entire time. It could even be that these two particular engineers have taken this project squarely on their shoulders, just to make it happen. If that is the case — then bravo to them. The Linux community needs more fans like that, in high places, to do this kind of work.
Now, I must bring this to light — the Netflix Linux client will, most assuredly, be proprietary. This will rub many in the Linux community the wrong way. To those that cry "foul" on the non-open source nature of what Netflix will soon have to offer, I say this is a case of "let's be thankful we're getting something". There are simply times when getting a piece of closed source software that will open up Linux to such a service as Netflix is okay. Think about it this way — would you rather have Netflix streaming to your Linux desktop and have to deal with a bit of proprietary software, or would you rather not have Netflix streaming to your Linux desktop? Me? I'd rather have Netflix streaming to my desktop — closed source or no.
And there will be some that will look at this and say, "Oh, look at the Linux community applauding something we've had all along...they are so far behind the curve." To those I would actually have to say, nay nay...it is not the Linux community behind the curve, it's everyone else and they are doing the catching up. But even so, I have to give a round of applause to those engineers at Netflix. What you are doing will make millions of Linux users (that number might a bit high — but we'll never really know will we?) extremely happy.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.