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Are you confused by the current state of support Linux users have for video streaming services? Are you curious why some services work in some browsers and not in others while some services don’t work at all? I was confused by this too so I decided to research this issue to find and share what the current state of video streaming services on Linux is.

Video streaming on Linux is currently a mess with some services supporting HTML5, others only supporting Flash and the rare oddball only supporting Silverlight. Despite this, it has actually been improved heavily and continues to improve every day. Just a couple years ago the landscape was vastly different, so I’m very excited because the future looks very promising.

DRM Complicates Media

DRM, or Digital Rights Management What Is DRM & Why Does It Exist If It's So Evil? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is DRM & Why Does It Exist If It's So Evil? [MakeUseOf Explains] Digital Rights Management is the latest evolution of copy protection. It’s the biggest cause of user frustration today, but is it justified? Is DRM a necessary evil in this digital age, or is the model... Read More , is a term that refers to various technologies designed to limit, complicate, the access of content. It is found on many different forms of software but is most commonly experienced with video and gaming. I don’t think DRM is going to ruin the world but it is undeniable that all issues with video streaming on Linux boil down to the insistence of DRM from copyright holders, and the companies that insist Linux isn’t a big enough platform to care about, like Adobe.

muo-linux-video-streaming-state-01-film-abstract

DRM is here to stay, for a while at least, but locking content down to specific platforms via DRM is bad for business when your aim is to get as many viewers as possible. The good news is that some companies such as YouTube How To Resolve Problems With Flash On YouTube How To Resolve Problems With Flash On YouTube Are YouTube videos displaying a green screen? Is your browser crashing when you try to watch them? Or do they just not play properly? Issues with Flash, which YouTube uses to play videos,  may cause... Read More , Vimeo Watch The Best Short Films From Around The World On Vimeo Watch The Best Short Films From Around The World On Vimeo Vimeo is one of these YouTube alternatives. It's a different beast from the Google-owned property, extolling the virtues of quality over quantity. Vimeo is the place where the cool cats -- the innovative musicians, interesting... Read More , Dailymotion 5 Video Sites That Are Alternatives to YouTube 5 Video Sites That Are Alternatives to YouTube Believe it or not there was a time when YouTube wasn't the daddy of all online video sites. It was instead merely just one of a number that was offering ordinary people the chance to... Read More , and others have realized this and are adjusting their services accordingly so they work great on Linux. In an ideal world, content would be available to anyone who wants it regardless of the platform.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in that video streaming utopia, although we are making progress.

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Adobe Continues to Fight Linux Users

Adobe continues the fight against Linux users that they started in Februrary 2012 when they abandoned Flash for Linux. Many video streaming services still hang on to Flash and due to Adobe discontinuing support for Linux it continues to be a thorn in our sides. Flash on Linux is locked at version 11.2 while Windows and OS X users are on version 19. Adobe, or their advocates, might argue that Google stepped up with PepperFlash and that solves the problem with Adobe’s abandonment but that approach but that doesn’t resolve the main issue.

Google’s PepperFlash addresses the issue and with plugins like Freshplayer How To Get Chrome's Latest Flash Player To Work In Firefox On Linux How To Get Chrome's Latest Flash Player To Work In Firefox On Linux Don't miss out on new features and performance improvements in Flash simply because you want to use Firefox. Here's how to get the latest version of Flash for Firefox in Linux. Read More , even Firefox users can use PepperFlash. But Google’s PepperFlash implementation doesn’t support DRM, leaving some services impossible to use. For years, HAL has been the Linux answer to DRM content using Flash but unfortuantely HAL doesn’t work with PepperFlash, due to the way the this is structured. This means that if a streaming service wants to support Linux using DRM and Flash then they are forced to not go beyond version 11.2.

muo-linux-video-streaming-state-02-flash-failure

Flash just needs to die Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It) Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It) The Internet's relationship with Flash has been rocky for a while. Once, it was a universal standard on the web. Now, it looks like it may be headed to the chopping block. What changed? Read More , and soon; Flash is a now widely considered a failure, with weekly security issues. But Flash isn’t the only product Adobe has made that screws Linux users.

Adobe and Mozilla reached an agreement to allow Adobe to create the Adobe Primetime Content Decryption Module (CDM) to play DRM content via HTML5 video in Firefox. That sounds like a good thing doesn’t it? It sounds like they are accepting the failure of Flash and moving on but of course, there’s a catch. Adobe’s Primetime CDM doesn’t support Linux. Directly from Mozilla: “Currently, Adobe Primetime is only available in Windows Vista/7/8 and above when using 32-bit versions of Firefox.”

(Adobe’s Primetime CDM not supporting OS X isn’t an issue for Mac users because Adobe still supports Flash there.)

Netflix

Netflix decided to end Silverlight’s Reign of Terror, thankfully, by switching over to HTML5 Video; Netflix Announces Plans To Switch To HTML5 Video Streaming [Updates] Netflix Announces Plans To Switch To HTML5 Video Streaming [Updates] Netflix's developers have officially announced their intentions to switch the service's playback interface from Microsoft Silverlight to HTML5. The announcement came shortly after Microsoft revealed that support for Silverlight 5 will stop in 2021, giving... Read More  they’re still using DRM via EME (Encrypted Media Extensions), but one step at a time, eh? Netflix on Linux used to be a pipe dream which is why workarounds like Pipelight How To Easily Enable Silverlight, And Watch Netflix, on Linux How To Easily Enable Silverlight, And Watch Netflix, on Linux Netflix depends on Silverlight; Silverlight doesn't play well with Linux. But Linux users have an easy-to-use workaround. Read More were created (though they were still a pain to use for most). Now that Netflix has transitioned to the HTML5 video solution, Linux users now have an easy way to watch Netflix natively on Linux How to Watch Netflix Natively on Linux - the Easy Way How to Watch Netflix Natively on Linux - the Easy Way Using Netflix on Linux has been simplified considerably in the past few months. With the right browser, you can enjoy your favorite shows and movies from the popular streaming subscription service on your Linux device. Read More .

newsletter-netflix-on-linux-easy-way-muo

Netflix on Linux is now as simple and easy as just using Google Chrome, but unfortunately Firefox users, like myself, are still left out of the Netflix goodness thanks to Adobe’s CDM, which I mentioned earlier.

Quick Answer: Netflix works great on Linux via Google Chrome but does not work with Firefox or any other browser.

Hulu

Hulu does not work in Linux out-of-the-box but it can be made to work thanks to the efforts of the Ubuntu MATE Founder, Martin Wimpress, who packaged a PPA that adds HAL support to your computer for the purpose of fixing DRM Flash services. Once you add the PPA and install the HAL package, you will have access to Hulu.

I mentioned earlier that HAL does not work with PepperFlash so if you are a Google Chrome user then unfortunately this HAL fix will not work for you, only Firefox is able to utilize this solution.

vpn-hulu

Quick Answer: Hulu works on Linux after you install the HAL + Flash Fix but only for Firefox; Google Chrome’s PepperFlash doesn’t support HAL, and thus doesn’t support Hulu.

Amazon Instant Video

Amazon Instant Video has recently changed for the better in some cases but also for the worse in another. Ir previously supported Firefox with the HAL + Flash Fix but at the time of writing Amazon has transitioned to HTML5 Video, so right now their implementation only works in Google Chrome. Another caveat to the new service implementation is that the HTML5 streaming in Google Chrome doesn’t support HD content, it shows an HD icon on the player but they aren’t HD streams.

Amazon used to offer the Flash based service to Firefox users and while using the HAL + Flash Fix you could get HD content streams via Firefox. Unfortunately, that support seems to be gone so until Adobe stops fighting Linux, Firefox is no longer an option for Amazon Instant Video.

AmazonOriginal

Quick Answer: Amazon Instant Video works out of the box via Google Chrome but doesn’t have HD content. Flash support has been deprecated so Firefox users are left out.

CrunchyRoll

Anime fans will be happy to know that Crunchyroll supports Linux via the HAL + Flash Fix described above.

CrunchyRoll-Web

Quick Answer: Crunchyroll is supported on Linux via Firefox with the HAL + Flash Fix but does not work with Google Chrome.

NBA League Pass

NBA League Pass is a streaming service provided by NBA.com streaming games live or pre-recorded. NBA League Pass enforces game blackouts so if your team is blacked out then the League Pass may not be worth it. NBA League Pass utilizes Flash to play content, including the 4 games simultaneous streaming. NBA’s streaming service just requires a recent version of Flash which Google Chrome provides via PepperFlash so NBA fans will be able to enjoy many games on Linux. Google Chrome has out of the box support for PepperFlash but Firefox also works thanks to the Freshplayerplugin How To Get Chrome's Latest Flash Player To Work In Firefox On Linux How To Get Chrome's Latest Flash Player To Work In Firefox On Linux Don't miss out on new features and performance improvements in Flash simply because you want to use Firefox. Here's how to get the latest version of Flash for Firefox in Linux. Read More .

Once you have the Freshplayerplugin installed, Firefox will be able to use PepperFlash and be able to use the NBA League Pass.

muo-linux-video-streaming-state-04-nba-league-pass

Quick Answer: The NBA League Pass is available on Linux with Google Chrome and Firefox, via PepperFlash and the Freshplayerplugin respectively.

Crackle

Crackle is an example of how Adobe has screwed over Linux users via Flash abandonment. Crackle actually made a fairly understandable decision to increase the minimum requirement of Flash for their services admist the Flash zero-day debacle. Unfortunately though, Crackle’s new minimum requirement is now higher than what we have on Linux.

muo-linux-video-streaming-state-03-crackle

Quick Answer: Crackle doesn’t work and unfortunately for us Linux users, there aren’t any solutions that I could find to make it work.

Linux Users Across the Pond (UK)

I am not able to test personally as I’m outside of the UK but I have had others test for me. BBC iPlayer supports HTML5 video so it works via Google Chrome out of the box but requires EME so no support for Firefox. Channel4 works with the HAL + Flash Fix but doesn’t work in Google Chrome. ITV Player and TVCatchup work in both Google Chrome and Firefox with the HAL + Flash Fix. Channel 5 (Demand 5) & Acorn TV have the “Crackle Problem” in that the minimum requirement for Flash plus DRM makes it not possible to play on Linux.

vpn-bbc

If you have any information for other services please let us know in the comments below.

Video Streaming Services on Linux Are a Mess

It may seem that the state of Video Streaming Services on Linux is a mess, well that’s because it is. The good news is that we are making a lot of progress in this space thanks to effort from Netflix, Amazon, BBC, & etc in transitioning to the superior solution of HTML5. In the meantime, I’d also like to thank Martin Wimpress of Ubuntu MATE for providing the HAL + Flash Fix that makes all of the Flash based services continue to work on Linux.

What do you think of the current state of video streaming on Linux? Are you an optimist, like me, looking forward to the future? Let us know in the comments below.

  1. andy
    October 2, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for the good overview- it was exactly what I was looking for.

    One suggestion (based on my brief visit from a smart phone): You should prominantly display a publish date at the start of the article. I almost skipped the whole thing because there was no way to know that it was up to date.

    Also, it's nice to see an author responding to comments, particularly the goofy git clone variety!

    • Michael Tunnell
      October 4, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      You're welcome but quick note, some is this information is out of date. I'll be making an update to this article which you can track at my website http://michaeltunnell.com or follow me on Twitter for the update.

      Some stuff that didn't work, does work now and sadly vice versa as well.

      As for replying, my favorite part of writing is the discussion in comments. I can't stand it when authors ask for comments but don't bother reading much less responding. I mean what's the point of the comments then, right?

  2. KJ
    June 28, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Thanks for this centralized summary. It can be hard to Google this problem with many different distributions, versions of browsers, etc.

  3. Shy Frenkel
    March 1, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    We’ve developed a new HTML5 player that plays with transparency and looks exactly like the old Flash player (not with a white background - real transparency over Chrome and FireFox browsers). Here’s an example:
    http://videostir.com/html5/

  4. tech7878
    December 3, 2015 at 7:20 am

    I have installed Google Chrome (47.0.2526.73(64-bit)) on kodibuntu (lubuntu 14.04) and cannot get Amazon Prime Video or NBA League pass to work "out-of-the-box". The Adobe Flash Player (19.0.0.245) PPAPI is loaded from /opt/google/chrome/PepperFlash/libpepflashplayer.so and is enabled. I have tried several alternatives to no avail. Am I missing something for a turnkey solution for Amazon Prime and NBA League Pass?

    • David Anderson
      December 4, 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Try Google Chrome 46. I was using that with Linux, and it (Amazon Prime) worked fine - I upgraded to Chrome 47, and it stopped working... downgraded back to Chrome 46, and it works again...

  5. ebinrock
    November 12, 2015 at 2:32 am

    I got both Netflix and Amazon Instant Video to work on Firefox in Linux Mint, using Pipelight - but keep in mind after installing Pipelight, you also have to create the Mozilla plugin for Silverlight and install a Firefox add-on like User Agent Overrider to basically trick Netflix and similar services into thinking you're running a Windows-based version of Firefox. Then when you try to stream the video title, there'll be a Lego brick-looking icon that says "Activate Silverlight". Once you click on that you'll get the video to stream. A bit involved, but not too hard after all if you want to stream video from major services on Linux Firefox. Can't wait till those services offer native HTML 5 streaming on Firefox on the Linux platform, but I'm sure they'll make us jump through more hoops with the DRM or we'll have to do some hacks to get it to work.

  6. Cameron Nielsen
    November 10, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Great article, but something seems off re: Crunchyroll. I watch Crunchyroll on Chrome all the time without any problems--Adblock Plus even strips the ads out (usually) without locking up. I'm a distro-hopper, so I know this has been true for me in Ubuntu 14.04 Unity, Xubuntu, Mint 17.2 (XFCE & KDE flavors), Netrunner Rolling (Arch/Manjaro based), and on Chrome OS.

    • Michael Tunnell
      November 10, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      I tested it in Chrome and Chromium but neither of them worked. Firefox didn't work until I installed the HAL fix so I assumed that the Chrome issue was due to HAL. I would expect ChromeOS to work though because a lot of services build specifically designed modules just for ChromeOS so it actually should work on that.

      • Cameron Nielsen
        November 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm

        Perhaps one of your other fixes interferes with Crunchyroll? I haven't attempted to fix any other streaming issues, so my two computers are running Chrome as it comes out-of-the-box (from the Google PPA and the AUR, respectively) in that regard. And the way my Chrome on Linux came, it has the latest Flash embedded (19.0.0.xxx), which is normal according to the Adobe website (http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/), which is what my Chrome is using to play Crunchyroll. Crackle still doesn't work for me, though.

  7. Jim Gane
    November 9, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    ESPN 3 sports streaming is also a problem. I have to dual boot to watch streaming games on Widoze.

    • Michael Tunnell
      November 10, 2015 at 3:49 am

      Thank you for sharing that information. Have you considered making a Windows virtual machine instead of dual booting? This way you could probably watch stuff via the VM instead of wasting drive space for Windows.

    • Tom Jenkins
      November 10, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      What problems do you have using ESPN 3 in Linux? I have used it for several years now natively in several Linux distros using both Firefox and Chromium. Sometimes the quality of the stream is good, sometimes it is not. Sometimes when the quality is low at the start, it improves as I watch. I found a few years ago, when I still retained some Windows access, that when the streaming quality was low, neither booting into Windows or using Windows in VirtualBox helped. I concluded that when there were quality problems, they came from someplace closer to the source. Lack of bandwidth, either on the sending end or on my end is what I suspected.

      • Jim Gane
        November 11, 2015 at 12:20 pm

        I am by no means a Linux expert. As far as I have been able to find out it has something to do with HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer). My ESPN3 worked and then suddenly stopped working. I am still looking for a solution. I hate Virtual Box, and the problem with Windoze is I use it so unoften that when I do boot into it hours are taken up just updating Windoze, anti-virus and spyware programs.

        • Jim Gane
          November 12, 2015 at 12:16 pm

          This article got me thinking. I had read HAL was discontinued. I checked the repostiory and it was there. I installed HAL and Flumotion and ESPN3 is now working again. I guess the article motivated me to do something and solve the problem.

        • Tom Jenkins
          November 13, 2015 at 1:38 pm

          Because of your comments, if I lose the ability to stream ESPN after some future update of one of my systems, I'll know the first thing to try to get it back. Thanks, that might save time and frustration.

  8. yaboosucksXYZ
    November 7, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Hulu: If you prefer to build the hal-flash library from source, rather than trust in someone's unofficial PPA, it's actually only a few simple commands: (on Ubuntu and variants):

    sudo apt-get install libglib2.0-dev dbus libdbus-1-dev libtool automake autoconf checkinstall build-essential git

    git clone https://github.com/cshorler/hal-flash.git

    cd hal-flash/

    autoreconf -i

    ./configure --prefix=

    make

    sudo make install

    This will create /lib/libhal.so and (for me anyway) hulu will start working instantly.

    • Michael Tunnell
      November 10, 2015 at 3:51 am

      > "If you prefer to build the hal-flash library from source"

      Why would someone prefer that?

      > "rather than trust in someone’s unofficial PPA"

      The PPA was made by the Founder of Ubuntu MATE and one of the head developers of the MATE desktop. Do you seriously think people shouldn't trust him?

    • Michael Tunnell
      November 10, 2015 at 3:57 am

      Also, Please don't suggest people to install git and then clone an entire repo just to compile an app, I mean that is just irresponsible. The proper way to suggest people compile from source is to wget the release archive, extract and then install.

      for example: wget https://github.com/cshorler/hal-flash/archive/v0.3.1.tar.gz

  9. bettersolutionppp
    November 7, 2015 at 1:39 am

    If you want to install hal-flash from source, it's actually easy: (on Ubuntu or variants of):

    sudo apt-get install libglib2.0-dev dbus libdbus-1-dev libtool automake autoconf checkinstall build-essential git
    git clone https://github.com/cshorler/hal-flash.git
    cd hal-flash/
    autoreconf -i
    ./configure --prefix=
    make
    sudo make install

    That's it !

    • Michael Tunnell
      November 10, 2015 at 3:55 am

      > "it’s actually easy"

      easy only relatively to you, a lot of people wouldn't consider that "easy".

      Don't suggest people to install git and then clone an entire repo just to compile code. I mean that is just irresponsible. The proper way to suggest people compile from source is to wget the release archive, extract and then install.

      for example: wget https://github.com/cshorler/hal-flash/archive/v0.3.1.tar.gz

  10. Boat Rocker
    November 6, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Netflix... does not work with Firefox...

    Netflix... does not *natively* work with Firefox...

    FTFY

    Search MUO (This site) - How To Easily Enable Silverlight, And Watch Netflix, on Linux

    Works well on Ubuntu 14.4/Firefox.

  11. Lard Taco
    November 6, 2015 at 6:58 am

    As an avid user of Linux, (Mint at the moment.) I appreciate this article.

    I'd just add that every since Adobe purchased Business Catalyst and Omniture they've become more of an analytics & marketing company and more concerned with exploitation, rather than solving privacy and security issues. To some degree, Linux threatens that business model. DRM is the perfect answer for them. If you add that to Adobe originating as a mostly Apple based business, then you get their not so fond love of Linux. Now days, I personally view Adobe products as invasive marketing viruses and I believe they'll only get worse as time goes on. Of course I totally agree Flash needs to die. I did notice that as of a few days ago, Youtube had gone back to Flash. Could it be that Alphabet values those Flash cookies more than security? I understand, after all cookies are a hard thing to walk away from...

  12. ej mattocks
    November 6, 2015 at 3:32 am

    Crackle works perfectly fine in Kodi last time I checked, so use that instead of a browser. I've found Kodi always works so much better than a browser anyway.

    • Michael Tunnell
      November 6, 2015 at 4:13 am

      That is a good point, I didn't think to check that. I just checked it and a few shows on Crackle work where as a few don't work but any of them working is better than previously so thank you very much for making this comment.

      • ej mattocks
        November 6, 2015 at 8:41 pm

        There are at least three Crackle addons (one of which is in the USTV VoD addon). Some work better than others. On the one I use (Crackler) I haven't yet found a video that doesn't play.

        • Michael Tunnell
          November 6, 2015 at 10:29 pm

          Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee did not work for me with Crackler. Please, try that show and let me know if it works for you.

  13. Wesley Satelis
    November 6, 2015 at 2:26 am

    Peerflix solved all of my problems with torrent streaming ;)

  14. Dean Fowler
    November 5, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    BBC iPlayer DOES work in Firefox (41.0.2) on Linux! I use both Linux Mint (17.2) and Ubuntu, and it works fine on both. ITV player also works, but there's nothing worth watching on there, the same reason I haven't tried Channel 5. Channel 4 doesn't work.

    • Michael Tunnell
      November 6, 2015 at 12:57 am

      BBC iPlayer switched to HTML5 exclusively about two weeks ago or so I was told. If I was told incorrectly then that's great but can you verify how it works such as does it need HAL or not?

      • Dean Fowler
        November 6, 2015 at 12:04 pm

        I'm still able to watch iPlayer using Flash 11.2 on Firefox. I can't remember, but I'm sure it was working before I installed HAL trying to get Channel 4 to work.

  15. fcd76218
    November 5, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    "Flash is a now widely considered a failure, with weekly security issues."
    At the same time Windows which has had weekly security issues for many years, instead of being also considered a failure, is considered the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread. Go figure.

    "Hulu does not work in Linux out-of-the-box but it can be made to work thanks to the efforts of the Ubuntu MATE Founder, Martin Wimpress"
    There are 200+ Linux distros besides the Ubuntu-based ones that do not and cannot use PPAs. In my book, that means that Hulu does not work with Linux.

    • Michael Tunnell
      November 6, 2015 at 12:51 am

      >"At the same time Windows which has had weekly security issues for many years, instead of being also considered a failure, is considered the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread."

      Not by me, I can't stand Windows.

      > "There are 200+ Linux distros besides the Ubuntu-based ones that do not and cannot use PPAs. In my book, that means that Hulu does not work with Linux."

      The audience of this website is more likely to be using Ubuntu based distros so that is why it is relevant but either way your assumption is misguided. Just because I used the PPA as the example does not mean it is the only thing. I should have also mentioned Chris Horler as well and I am ashamed of myself that I didn't. I didn't even think about it until now actually.

      Chris Horler is the guy who made hal-flash compatibility layer that makes the PPA work. This layer is also available in Debian (via Sid branch), openSUSE (via software.opensuse.org), Arch (via AUR), Slackware (via Slackbuilds.org), and Gentoo (via emerge). I think it is safe to say that means it does work with Linux.

      • fcd76218
        November 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm

        Too bad you did not mention Chris Horler in the article.

        • Michael Tunnell
          November 10, 2015 at 3:59 am

          I agree.

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