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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 gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:36PM (#34568158) Homepage

      Since when is Linux a requirement for Open Source?

      • by Dhalka226 (559740)

        Never. Nor is contributing by producing clients for operating systems associated with open source a requirement. Nor anything else other than, you know, complying with the license.

        Somebody just wanted to bitch and moan, and Slashdot, having lost any standards years ago, saw the words "open source" and published it. Huzzah.

      • 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."

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

          No what they said if you RTFA is that *Sometimes* open source rocks for some things and other times commercial proprietary software rocks and other times home built rocks.

          I bet you can use many aspects of the NetflixAPI on linux--just not the video streaming portion.

        • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 16, 2010 @03:57AM (#34571474)

            Silverlight is not the main reason for a lack of Linux support on the desktop as netflix works perfectly fine in Linux. As proof look at the thousands of netflix capable players. Bluray players, set top players from western digital, netgear, and others have netflix support and they all run Linux of some form. I have been through the firmware on many of those devices and there isn't a single line of code for silverlight or even microsoft. Instead they rely on the boxes ability to generate a hardware key programmed into the boxes to generate the algorithms that decode content. The same thing could be done with the pc , trusted platform modules have existed for many many years but nobody uses it for fear of big brother tracking them . If you want netflix and probably other DRM content services on linux then you need to come up with a way to lock a specific hardware id to a specific pc that can protect the contents path all the way from the network to the video card that the public is willing to allow. This is not netflix doing. Blame the MPAA that sets a requirement that the content can only be streamed to devices that have a protected media path, currently linux doesn't have that in any form open or closed.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_Media_Path

        • by cgenman (325138) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:36AM (#34570670) Homepage

          Open Source != Linux. This is the kind of associative crap that stops corporate adoption of genuinely usable and useful open source software. There is probably more FOSS on Windows than Linux these days.

          Also Netflix is tied into a Microsoft streaming media solution. I do not believe that Microsoft has a Linux solution for that. And the contractually-required layer of DRM is by definition impossible in open-source solutions. These are not the fault of Netflix.

          Just because they're not releasing a Linux client doesn't mean they're preventing their customers from using their service on Linux. Netflix will run fine under virtualized XP.

    • 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?
      • ...a proprietary, third-party streaming platform based on Silverlight?

        Bill Gates smiles, pumps fists and yells "Hoo yeah! Git some!"

      • 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.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by geekoid (135745)

          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.
          \

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The only thing they are obligated to do is follow the license attached to the code they use. Not doing that is rude and illegal. If the community wanted something back they'd write it into their licenses, but then it wouldn't be free open source. To assume someone owes you because they use something that you were giving out like candy at a parade is rude and a slap to the face of the open source community.

          • Well maybe the open source community should develop a better DRM system for Netflix to use which satisfies the studios.

            I also don't like your implication that because I use Windows I don't give back to the open source community.

            I probably put in 10x as many hours of development into free and open tools than your average linux user.

            • 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 h4rr4r (612664)

          Hulu plays much of the same stuff, I can use that on my linux boxes.

          Netflix could have done the same.

        • Banks can do it. And they are not protecting rubbish movies, they protecting actual money.

          Give a certificate to each user of Netflix, provide all the necessary APIs, any play operation needs to use the user certificates which would need to be authenticated against a Netflix mandated certificate authority.

          The movies would be of course encrypted with the private key associated to the user, which remains under Netflix control. You lose your certificate (public key), no worries, Netflix issues a new one.

          We are

      • With Moonlight?

        • Microsoft provides the Codec support for Moonlight, and doesn't include the DRM support for Moonlight's users.
    • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:51PM (#34568346)

      The Netflix streams are all have proprietary DRM protection. To write our own client we would have to reverse engineer this proprietary protocol (which is legal, but can be difficult), and then worse, we would have hack the authorized players, and to get the DRM keys out of them. This implementation would constitute a circumvention device, and using or distributing it would be illegal under the DMCA.

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

      • 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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by HangingChad (677530)

      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?

      • But selecting incompatible technologies is something they can control.

        Yes. And they have selected technologies that make their product compatible with what...perhaps 98% of consumer platforms?

        Perhaps _you_ are the one who has selected incompatible technologies?

    • Uh, go get the open source and build it yourself.

      It's closed source, owned by Microsoft. So no.

      Why should Netflix be obliged to implement a Linux port?

      Ask the shareholders.

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

      Wrong. Copyright and patent law prevent something happening when the copyright owner doesn't cause it to happen himself.

    • by Junta (36770)

      What you just said isn't particularly reasonably done.

      All client implementations are closed-source binaries without open source requirements. Even on their clients atop linux, their platform is not open nor derived from code requiring it to be open (presumably). Of course, one wonders why not take those various clients and let the community play with it standalone, even if not open source (like huludesktop, for example).

      All their open-source stuff is basically in their datacenters. They exploit open-sour

  • For example, where is my Linux version of SketchUp?

    • Does Sketchup use open source components?

  • Especially when your business changed your 3rd party platform from Flash to Silverlight. Hopefully an HTML5 implementation of Instant Watch is in the works.
    • Hopefully an HTML5 implementation of Instant Watch is in the works.

      How would an HTML5 implementation deter people from keeping a permanent copy of a video and/or distributing copies over the Internet? The available HTML5 viewers don't have a defined digital restrictions management mechanism, and the providers of films to Netflix demand DRM.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        How does SIlverlight deter peopl from keeping a copy? It's trivially easy.

        I would say that the people who download movies habitually don't have a netflix account. Cause, why would they need to? also, you can create a none OS application for Linux.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        By being only 720p, you can already get 1080p rips of all these films online.

    • A lot of posts fixate on the windows client. However, they work on Roku, PS3, Wii, and a number of other platforms that are almost certainly not Silverlight and many of which use Linux under the covers.

  • Roku is linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Metrathon (311607) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:35PM (#34568132)

    My little Roku box that sits next to my TV and plays Netflix is built on Linux apparently. In a developer discussion about why there was no Linux desktop player I got the impression that the sticking point was the ease of siphoning off the video stream in a system where you can compile your own kernel was the real problem.

    • 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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Devrdander (1105175)
      The Roku box actually has DRM support in the hardware, as do most of the set top boxes and integrated devices. Linux itself just runs the front end for the hardware decoder.
  • 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.

    • Yeah, the summary is pure flamebait. Open source is about both using open things, and making one's changes to them available. It's not about supporting a particular platform even though it's (apparently) not (yet) economically viable to do so. What next, calling them hypocrites because they dont' support every open-source OS out there? I guess it was too much for the summarizer to simply accept that he was annoyed at them for not supporting Linux, and had to project it on them.
    • by fermion (181285)
      Is it any wonder that no one uses open source? You do what you can, then people still complain.
    • by Tharsman (1364603)
      Take your facts and common sense somewhere else, this is slashdot!!! Burn them for not supporting Linux playback! :P
  • 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?

    • They do let you choose your desktop/laptop OS from Mac, Win, or Linux as an employee. Most of their in-house wares are custom built, and their Unix of choice is AIX. They are mostly an IBM shop on the back-end, I can't remember if it was Linux for the front-facing boxen though. I had a technical interview there in late 2009, which is where my info comes from.

    • I agree completely. There's nothing wrong with Netflix running Linux servers while not supporting Linux desktops. For all we know they're not even using X.org or any GUI whatsoever. The list of projects they contribute to does not have any GUI apps in it. (Hudson, Hadoop, Hive, Honu, Apache, Tomcat, Ant, Ivy, Cassandra, HBase)

  • 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 tepples (727027)
      Julie188 hasn't started the Linux client because the Netflix team has not provided protocol specifications to Julie188. And I'd bet the providers of films to Netflix wouldn't let Netflix provide protocol specifications to Julie188.
    • where's the Linux client? Julie188 hasent started it yet.

      And he/she/whatever never will. I can f* guarantee it!!!!

  • 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."
    • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:52PM (#34570464)

        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.

        That's actually it. It isn't some conspiracy, or a secret. I'm a random Ubuntu user, and I looked into the whole netflix thing, and I consider one thread to be definitive [1].

        I want to quote the netflix rep posting in the thread as saying that he uses Ubuntu and that netflix would love to have a linux client if they could get the rights to do one. But, cut and paste doesn't work for me on slashdot :(

        Anyway, read it for yourself. It is pretty clear that Netflix is on our side.

        [1] developer.netflix.com/forum/read/49086

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @06:47PM (#34568308)
    From the Netflix website:

    "The great thing about a good open source project that solves a shared challenge is that it develops it's own momentum and it is sustained for a long time by a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement. At Netflix we jumped on for the ride a long time ago and we have benefited enormously from the virtuous cycles of actively evolving open source projects. We benefit from the continuous improvements provided by the community of contributors outside of Netflix. We also benefit by contributing back the changes we make to the projects. By sharing our bug fixes and new features back out into the community, the community then in turn continues to improve upon bug fixes and new features that originated at Netflix and then we complete the cycle by bring those improvements back into 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]
  • That, in addition to OSS's usual superiority on the server side vs. the desktop side, there is the ugly-but-not-at-all-little-for-Netflix issue of DRM.

    You cannot build a DRM system that is both "OSS" in any useful sense and effective(you can certainly use OSS parts; but ultimately there will have to be a proprietary obfuscated portion or hardware tivoization and/or secrets if the DRM is to be more than a toy, disabled by using the --obey_DRM=no build option). There is simply no compromise to be had here.
  • It's not hypocracy to use open source for all it's benefits in development and deployment, while ignoring stuff that probably won't make any money. Making open source consumer software seems not to be good business practice. Or At least I've missed all the cash generating open and free software for end users that's out there. Yes I know that you can charge for stuff even if it's open source, but as I've said, I can hardly find any consumer oriented, end user stuff that uses this model. Perhaps the open sou
  • Open source is a way of building software that some folks reckon yields a better quality software product. As a side effect lots of people are tend to benefit from it.

    The four basic freedoms espoused by the GNU underpin a Free Software philosphy quite different. It's quite possible to derive benefit from open source and not give a damn about the Free Software movement.

    Moreover though, it is not not *not* hypocitical for a company to benefit from open source but refuse to release a Linux client for their pro

  • 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.

    • by Stregano (1285764)
      Umm, yeah. So, now that you said everything and left me with nothing, I am out of mod points. Can somebody mod parent up. nicely written
    • Re:Terrible summary! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@Nos ... t-retrograde.com> on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @08:46PM (#34569334)

      If [Netflix] 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.)

      Well, shoot, that just sucks! I was really looking forward to cracking the DRM in a Netflix Linux client and trans-coding the crappy quality, limited selection, streaming video feed into Theora files...

      Oh well, guess I'll just have to keep getting the Netflix DVDs & Blu-ray Disks, breaking the DRM on those, ripping them to my digital library, and returning them before I've had a chance to watch them.

      DRM... Pffft, Doesn't Restrict Me!

  • probably because they estimate that the cost per supported customer would shrink the revenue to 0. *I* would be willing to pay for a linux client and *I* would be willing to pay 50% more for being able to use linux. However taken the reaction which slashdot and parts of the FOSS community have towards things like that i would not want to invest enough in marketing to overcome the negative publicity by sensationalist biased slashdot article. I would rather think that doing something like that (providing a

    • by sloanster (213766)

      probably because they estimate that the cost per supported customer would shrink the revenue to 0.

      On what do you base this statement? It makes no sense to me because first of all, linux users are absolutely the least likely of all to require hand holding and technical support.... obtw - the linux client is already done - it's been running on the roku box for years.

      • by drolli (522659)

        So for sure you can tell me what the difference between the "roku box" and "any arbitrary linux" is? (I give you the small hint that the initial creation of a software by no way is the total cost)

        I am pretty sure Netflix looks to Ubuntu to decide when the time is right to put out an Ubuntu client.

  • From TFA:

    It may not make business sense for Netflix to invest in a player for Linux, given the relatively small audience on the Linux desktop.

    But if they were to use standardized program development models in a portable non-proprietary language, they would have minimal difficulty getting a common code base to work on BSD or Linux. Just hire programmers with BSD/Linux development experience and let them work out the remaining differences.

  • Linux still isn't a big target market.

  • by gumpish (682245) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:47PM (#34568862) Journal

    Reed Hastings [wikipedia.org], co-founder and CEO of Netflix, sits on the board of directors of Microsoft.

    Why do you think they went with Silverlight?

    Why do you think the PS3 and Wii required discs to use Netflix for so long?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Mod parent up. If it had not been for this Netflix would have done what hulu did and used flash like every other streaming site out there.

  • Blame the studios for the lack of a Linux client. Their insistance on DRM is why there is no Linux client as it would be very difficult to produce a client for Linux that runs on any setup (including open source graphics drivers, selfbuilt kernel etc) and still protects the content enough to satisfy the studios.

    Windows has "protected media path" and other OS level protection and I believe OSX has OS level protection as well (for one thing it refuses to let you debug or trace iTunes IIRC)
    Linux has none of th

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