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Open Source Linux

Netflix Touts Open Source, Ignores Linux 481

Posted by samzenpus
from the practice-watch-you-preach dept.
Julie188 writes "If Netflix loves open source, where's the Linux client? Last week's post from Netflix on its use of open source has gotten a lot of coverage from the tech press. Too bad nobody's called the video giant out on its hypocrisy: They benefit greatly from open source, but really don't care to let their customers do the same."
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Netflix Touts Open Source, Ignores Linux

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  • by Seor Jojoba (519752) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:31PM (#34568094) Homepage
    Uh, go get the open source and build it yourself. Why should Netflix be obliged to implement a Linux port? Not doing something is not the same as preventing it from happening.
  • by Mr_eX9 (800448) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:37PM (#34568164) Homepage
    How are open source programmers supposed to implement a Linux port of a proprietary, third-party streaming platform based on Silverlight? Reverse engineering? More importantly, how do they convince Netflix to use it?
  • by zn0k (1082797) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:37PM (#34568168)

    Sounds like they're letting their customers benefit from Open Source just fine:

    > Here is an incomplete sampling of the projects we utilize, we have contributed back to most of them: Hudson, Hadoop, Hive, Honu, Apache, Tomcat, Ant, Ivy, Cassandra, HBase, etc, etc.

    That's a lot more than many companies that use Open Source (and have Linux clients or applications) do. Contributing back to the projects benefits everyone - not just users of FOSS desktop systems, but everyone that interacts with a system built on those projects.

  • Client vs. Server (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abigor (540274) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:39PM (#34568186)

    Netflix make use of open source on the server-side. What on Earth does this have to do with supporting an open source client? They contribute back to the projects they use, which is all anyone can ask for.

    It's like saying because you use Linux on your desktop, then you're a bad person for not contributing to Hadoop. Huh?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:39PM (#34568202)

    And the lack of a free software client is the real issue. The lack of Linux client is not such a big deal. You can probably use the Windows one under wine any way. It just "works", just like the proprietary Linux one would. Maybe even better. Besides, it's just a bunch of Linux-using folk who are unable to use Netflix. Whether a free software client exists is more important than the ability of a handful of Linux users to use Netflix.

    Oh, and there's no hypocrisy on the part of Netflix. Just because they use free software tools doesn't mean they should make their software free. It would be very good if they did, but nothing says they must, unless you think non-free software is unethical. Else, it's neither illegal, nor immoral. It's not hypocritical either.

  • by dilvish_the_damned (167205) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:40PM (#34568212) Journal

    where's the Linux client?
    Julie188 hasent started it yet.

  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:47PM (#34568306)
    This article is everything that is wrong with the linux community. They are very vocal about touting the benefits of open source and linux, but when a company echoes those sentiments they lash out with demands and accusations of "doing it wrong"

    I don't see any hypocrisy in netflix claiming it likes ant, tomcat, etc but not announcing a linux client. As far as i know they haven't said, "under no circumstances will we ever release a general Linux client."

    I could be wrong. I maybe missed part of the dialog, but it seems like a saner response to the netflix post would be something more like, "Hey, you guys sound pretty progressive with this whole open source thing. There's millions of us linux users out here who would really love a linux client."
  • Terrible summary! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guyminuslife (1349809) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:57PM (#34568390)

    Netflix doesn't open source its client. This is not something that they control. They have various deals with various content providers that stipulate that they use DRM in their streaming solution. If they made an open-source client, it would defeat the purpose of the DRM. (Yes, DRM doesn't work and blah blah blah, but this is a business requirement, not a technical requirement. If you want to get mad at them about it, get mad at Hollywood instead.)

    AFAIK, Netflix generally doesn't implement its own DRM, but instead uses the DRM from whatever platform they distribute on. The do have a "Linux" version if you count Android, but the company has claimed that they've had difficulty using it due to platform fragmentation and because it doesn't implement all of the features they need to satisfy their studio agreements. They've said they have to develop for one device at a time.

    And that's with Android's libraries. So when you're asking for a Linux client for Netflix, you're not just asking for a port of their Windows or Mac clients, you're asking them to spend a lot of extra dollars to develop a closed-source DRM solution for a small market that hates DRM (and closed-sourced, to a lesser extent). Where is the sense in that? If Netflix did make a Linux client, submitters would be crawling on top of each other screaming, "Netflix Trying to Destroy Linux With Evil Client From Hell."

    On the other hand, it's nice that they contribute to other projects.

  • Re:Roku is linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by carton (105671) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:58PM (#34568398)

    This is a great point: Linux isn't incompatible with DRM, but open source is. If you gave people a DRM player for which they truly had in-practice software freedom, the first thing they'd do is remove all the DRM.

    The post confuses Linux and open source, but Netflix is still fundamentally an anti-software-freedom company because their entire business is built on DRM which will always be incompatible with software freedom.

    Actually writing a Linux client has nothing to do with any of this. The streaming part of Netflix's business makes them into subcontractors of the Hollywood studios: they deliver Hollywood content to eyeballs with iron-clad digital restrictions management in exchange for a cut of the fees flowing back to the studios. DRM is their entire business. They will always be primarily harmful to any real movement for software freedom.

    Linux actually makes a great DRM platform: TiVo invented a whole term for it, ``tivoization'', where you have all the source code and ability to recompile the kernel, but then you can't run it anywhere because the hardware only runs signed kernels.

    Likewise, I think the Android app store is extending this all the way down to the userland, right? where for example Skype will only run on phones with ``untampered'' google-signed kernels and hardware? I might be wrong---hard to keep up.

    Anyway, why wasn't the DRM vs. software freedom point in the first post? I thought every Linux user knew this. Do people really think Linux == $0, and that's that?

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:58PM (#34568404) Homepage

    Not doing something is not the same as preventing it from happening.

    But selecting incompatible technologies is something they can control.

    We did we turn into such a bunch of corporate apologists?

  • by zerocool^ (112121) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:04PM (#34568476) Homepage Journal

    And additionally, whether you believe it's "right" or not, Netflix can only do what it does because there are copy protection mechanisms in place to ensure respect of the copyrights of the material they are displaying.

    There might be a way to create an open source Netflix client that respects copyright, but it would be difficult (technologically, and perhaps legally depending on the license you're using), and it would be a hard sell to the copyright owners.

    Plus, I mean, come on - Netflix streaming works on PS3, Xbox, wii, mac, windows, iphone, ipad, a number of set-top TV boxes like the Roku and the WD ones, several TVs with integrated instant watch, and several Blu-Ray players. They're trying to get as many eyes in front of their product as they can. It's not like they're forcing you into a small subset of products.

  • by abigor (540274) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:07PM (#34568500)

    Wrong, they are giving back tons. Speaking personally, I know for a fact they have contributed to Hadoop. Their blog site claims they've contributed to lots of others.

  • by milonssecretsn (1392667) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:11PM (#34568552)

    That wasn't what they said. TFA said: "They benefit greatly from open source, but really don't care to let their customers do the same."

    Netflix is essentially saying, "This open source stuff rocks! But we aren't going to allow you to run our product on it."

  • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:13PM (#34568574) Homepage

    Yes, Google does not treat Linux users as first rate consumers. However, they do at least acknowledge our existence (Google Earth, Picasa (kindof), chrome, Android Dev tools). What NetFlix does is completely ignore us. By some definitions you could even argue that they actively ignore us (Seriously, silverlight? WTF?).

    Ignore you? Who the f* are you? Who the lot of you represent? The majority of Linux users are ... *tada* admins running heavy shit on Linux, not desktop users. First and foremost to start with.

    Second, what are your contribution to FOSS? Specially compared to NetFlix.

    "Here is an incomplete sampling of the projects we utilize, we have contributed back to most of them: Hudson, Hadoop, Hive, Honu, Apache, Tomcat, Ant, Ivy, Cassandra, HBase, etc, etc." http://techblog.netflix.com/2010/12/why-we-use-and-contribute-to-open.html [netflix.com] [netflix.com]

    Just because they don't cater to your specific, alternative-desktop-niche needs that doesn't mean they are smooching to open source. What you are presenting here is simply an argument of convenience. No logic whatsoever behind it. Second, they are under NO obligation to actually even acknowledge your existence. Why should they? Since when open source users and contributors have to acknowledge *you*? They are in the business of maximizing delivery of copyrighted media, and maximizing does not mean catering to *everyone* but to the majority of the market segment.

    Whether you like it or not, silverlight (a proprietary product that can actually allow you to create open source applications) is an excellent tool for doing just that (since it is integrated and runs on top of the CLR)... and if it runs in silverlight, it might run on Mono's moonlight (not sure on this, though. Go do some volunteer work on it if you feel so strongly about it - instead of expecting Netflix to bend to your capricious bidding.)

    There is nothing in that operational scheme of things that is against producing, consuming and contributing back to open source software projects.

    That people actually cry momma and question Netflix's contributions to open source because it doesn't produce a client for their private pet desktops (and without offering to volunteer in creating or working with Netflix for creating a Linux client), man, that's the apex of /. stupidity.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:18PM (#34568616) Homepage Journal

    It's no harder then any other platform. Plus Roku is Linux based, so I think the technological means is there.

    Not that they should HAVE to develop it. However it would be polite to give back to the community whose work you are building on. There just being rude.
    \

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:50PM (#34568884)

    There would be six linux clients in various states of broken and lots of whining about how Netflix should deliver the sun and the moon complete with source code if they Truly Cared.

  • by ExileOnHoth (53325) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:57PM (#34568934)

    Asking open source customers to break the law to use your service isn't exactly friendly to open source.

    They aren't asking you to use their service. They've decided that for now, writing a custom application targeting your demographic - people who use Linux exclusively - isn't likely to be profitable for them.

    There's nothing in the licenses of the open source projects they are involved with (use / contribute to) that makes this a problem.

    Seems to me this is a non-issue. You just wish they would support your OS of choice. I do too. But it's not exactly scandalous that they don't.

  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @08:00PM (#34568960)

    What I do have is a couple UNIX boxes that are completely capable of fetching data over a network and displaying it on screen. There's absolutely no reason I should have to buy another piece of hardware to do that.

    You're right. Install Windows and your hardware should work fine.

  • Re:Ahem... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @08:10PM (#34569024)

    Remember when Loki was a poorly run company that ported old out of date games?

    Well back to playing those linux Humble bundle games now.

  • by gottabeme (590848) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @08:17PM (#34569076)

    You're grossly exaggerating.

    Don't forget that Netflix used to work in Linux, but then they switched to Silverlight and dumped Linux users...at the mailbox? They just drank the Microsoft juice (and since the co-founder is on Microsoft's board, no surprise there. Conflict-of-interest, anyone? I think that needs to be illegal).

    Besides, the fact that it works on Roku proves that it is possible but they are choosing to not support Linux users.

    The only plausible excuse would be that the content owners from which they license content wouldn't license their content to Netflix if Netflix had a desktop Linux player. But I think that's a flimsy excuse, perhaps completely invalid. Netflix chose to stop using Flash, and I doubt it had anything to do with that. After all, Hulu uses it, and Hulu's a joint effort from the studios.

    They need not say "under no circumstances will we ever release a general Linux client." They've done worse than that: they used to support Linux, then they dropped it, leaving users with no alternative except dual-booting Windows, and now they have said that they have no plans to support Linux.

    You know what it boils down to? Corporate greed. The drive for ever-increasing profits. The focus on ROI over all other considerations. Because if Netflix wanted to support desktop Linux, they could. They just choose not to.

  • by zeropointburn (975618) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @08:38PM (#34569242) Journal

    1. Thanks for contributing; a lot of people don't bother.
    2. It is not possible* to provide open-source DRM software that works (from the perspective of content owners). If your users have the source and it is not tied to crypto hardware, then you (the content owner) have no control over your content. If Netflix was to provide a Linux client, they would have to write it as a binary blob (and a bunch of us would complain about that).

    *If, however, your users are given something like an RSA dongle (ie. crypto hardware), then an open source DRM solution could be as strong as the crypto hardware. Note that this isn't open source DRM, just an open source interface to a closed device. For a service like Netflix, that solution would make sense and I would certainly pay a (small, one-time) fee for the hardware.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:02PM (#34569850)

    Yeah, you're right. Pretty sure it's 99% now.

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:02PM (#34569854) Journal

    Except Netflix isn't supporting desktop Linux. That's the whole point.

  • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:53PM (#34570126) Homepage

    "The majority of Linux users are ... *tada* admins running heavy shit on Linux, not desktop users. "

    [citation needed]

    Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems [wikipedia.org] Now go beat around the bushes and bemoan that I dared to ZOMG! use wikipedia as a reference.

    I doubt there are millions of admins running heavy shit. Linux is used by all accounts by at least 1% of Internet users, that's millions, and no, they are not all admins.

    That argument would make sense if there was a one-to-one relation between an admin and a box running linux. Fortunately for the sane minded, it is not. Any minimum exposure to actual development and deployment on companies big and small would show you that the number of Linux non-desktop deployments is much larger than the number of desktop deployments. Plain and simple.

    Now, if all you know is internet browsing usage, then I guess I can see why it seems to you that the number of Linux deployments are overwhelmingly of the desktop type. But that's a reflection of your experience, not work reality.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:17PM (#34570256) Homepage

    FWIW, BitTorrent works on any platform.

    Yep. and your point is?

    The point is that failure to provide authorized copies that work (and "work" implies "are not DRMed"), is a strong incentive for people to use unauthorized copies.

  • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:19PM (#34570266)

    I wouldn't expect Netflix to do anything for 3% of potential user base.

    Netflix has "over 16 million customers." 3% of that is 480,000 people. At $8/month that's $46 Million/Year. Is that not real money anymore?

  • by EdIII (1114411) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:46PM (#34570444)

    I don't think it is Netflix exactly. This is the first I have heard that they support Open Source in a public way at all.

    Netflix is powerless to do anything about this really. It's all Microsoft. Netflix chose to use Silverlight as their platform and a Microsoft based DRM platform. Silverlight is ported to Linux, the DRM is not.

    So it is not that the Netflix client would not work on Linux... it will and it does. It's just that the client would never be able to display the content since the DRM will never be ported to Linux. Of course you never even get that far because Netflix detects your environment and sends you to a warning page instead.

    All Netflix has to do to get a Linux client working is change out their DRM model... which will be shortly after snowballs are found lying around in Hell.

  • by cgenman (325138) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:50AM (#34570748) Homepage

    What I do have is a couple UNIX boxes that are completely capable of fetching data over a network and displaying it on screen. There's absolutely no reason I should have to buy another piece of hardware to do that.

    And where is the love for us DOS/OLPC/Mailstation owners? They should support streaming to Chumby, QNX, Newton, Haiku, Menuette, and the Fossil Abacus. Those greedy, puppy-hating bastards.

    BTW, what kind of UNIX are you running? System V? Linux? BSD? Solaris? Xenix? UnixWare? NeXT? Mach? What about underlying architecture? Remember, POSIX isn't going to get you as far as binary compatibility for graphical realtime video stream decompression with contractually required DRM.

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