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netflix linuxOne of the most popular video streaming services is undoubtedly Netflix, because of its vast collection of movies and other video content which can be instantly streamed. Most people can enjoy it whenever they sign up for the monthly subscription.

However, there’s the problem — most people can enjoy it. One of the few groups of people which are left out are Linux users. What’s the problem, and how can it be solved?

About the Problem

Netflix currently uses Microsoft’s Silverlight plugin, which is roughly an alternative to Adobe Flash. One of the downsides to Silverlight is that there is no official plugin available for Linux. Instead, there has been an open source project called Moonlight which aimed to bring Silverlight support to Linux. It generally worked well for most uses, but it lacks some key features, including DRM support which Silverlight has. Netflix relies heavily on DRM to deliver its content, so as to not have it stolen during transmission. Therefore, Linux is essentially left behind.

Use Other Linux-Powered Devices

netflix linux
There’ are a couple of things you could do to still get Netflix to work on your system, although they’re about as far away from ideal as possible. Least invasive, you can use another device to view Netflix, such as consoles or other TV devices. If you’d like to stick with Linux-powered systems, Roku boxes 6 Reasons Why You Need A Roku [Opinion] 6 Reasons Why You Need A Roku [Opinion] Electronics can be evil. A short time ago I wrote an article about using the Xbox 360 as a media center. I concluded that it wasn’t the best choice. Sensing my betrayal, the 360 promptly... Read More are a good option. Yes, Netflix does run on Roku even though it’s Linux-powered, and that is only because Netflix has specifically approved Roku devices because they’re relatively locked down compared to regular Linux desktops.

Run Windows in a Virtual Machine

netflix on linux
The next option available to you is to run a Windows virtual machine. It’s rather easy to do with VirtualBox, and you can even enable seamless mode so that it’ll seem more as if Netflix is natively running on your system. Be advised that, as Windows isn’t necessarily the most efficient operating system to place in a virtual machine, your performance will most likely be worse than running anything natively. However, it’ll be one of the best options, especially if you already use a Windows virtual machine for a few other programs that you need to run.

Run ChromeOS

netflix linux
Last but not least, if you absolutely want to run a Linux-based operating system natively on your hardware, you may need to take a look at getting ChromeOS onto your system (hopefully via a dual-boot setup). ChromeOS is another exception when it comes to Netflix-compatibility, so any device running ChromeOS will work just fine. Thankfully, however, you don’t need to go out and buy yourself a Chromebook What Is A Chromebook? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is A Chromebook? [MakeUseOf Explains] Everything is moving towards the web, which is now more commonly being dubbed “the cloud”. As such, your devices should probably be ready and well equipped to make full use of cloud services for your... Read More in order to get access to ChromeOS — instead, you can run Chromium OS Lime Use Chrome OS On Unsupported Computers With Chromium OS Lime Use Chrome OS On Unsupported Computers With Chromium OS Lime Like this idea of Chrome OS, but don't want to fork out money for a ChromeBook? Good news! Chromium Lime brings the Chrome OS experience to a huge number of laptops and netbooks, thanks to... Read More , which is a distribution based on Chromium OS, the base system for ChromeOS, that can run on any device thanks to the re-addition of most drivers. If you’re not interested in necessarily committing Chromium OS Lime to your hard drive, you can always install it to a USB flash drive or SD card and boot the system off it instead.

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Conclusion

Sadly there are currently no other known methods of accessing Netflix on Linux. However, Moonlight is already dead from lack of support, and Silverlight is slowly dying from lack of use as Netflix is practically the only major site which uses Silverlight. When the plugin’s support from Microsoft is finally terminated, it’ll be interesting to see what technology Netflix will use to stream its videos, and whether that technology will support Linux.

What systems would you like to see Netflix on? What technology, such as Flash or HTML5, should Netflix switch to in the future? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: graysky., Rachel Wente-Chaney

  1. George Blumduck
    December 24, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Meh, Netflix just needs to get there crap together and support some standards. Replacing one proprietary solution with another is stupid as hell (especially from Microsoft). At least Adobe tried to support Linux, but now they're in my crap pile these days. Screw Silverlight (and Microsoft and Netflix).

  2. Keven Tao
    January 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Well, you buy it first...

  3. Eg Seff
    December 4, 2012 at 6:20 am

    I just tried it on Linux Mint Maya running VMWare running Windows 7, through wifi, and it worked perfectly, no performance problem at all. 2 CPU core and 3 GB were assigned to run Windows 7 through VMWare

    • Eg Seff
      December 4, 2012 at 6:21 am

      Oh, I should have added I am using the integrated graphic hardware which comes with the i5 core, no need for special video card.

  4. Alvaro
    November 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Yesterday, developer and programmer extraordinaire Erich Hoover and iheartubuntu spent several hours working out all of the Netflix Desktop kinks. Most users will have no problems with installation now.

    Here is how to install the Netflix Desktop App on Ubuntu. Open a terminal and run these commands:

    sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ehoover/compholio

    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install netflix-desktop

    Once installed, go up to the top left of your screen and open your Unity dash and search for Netflix and run the app. It will load up everything needed on the first run. After logging into your Netflix account and selecting a video to play, Silverlight should ask you to enable DRM content. Please enable. Netflix movies should work fine now :) Congrats!

    The Netflix app starts in full screen mode. You can exit out of the app completely by pressing ALT+F4. You can also press F11 to exit out of full screen mode.

  5. Tony Soprano
    October 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    The best way to watch movies in Linux is to get an Amazon Prime membership for $79 and subscribe to Hulu.

    The Amazon player is Flash/browser based and works perfectly in Linux.

    Same with Hulu.

    Over time, it will have all the same movies as Netflix.

  6. Kevin
    October 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Part of the reason there is no Netflix for Linux may be related to the fact that the Netflix CEO is on the Microsoft board of directors. It will be interesting to see if things change at all once he steps down: http://venturebeat.com/2012/10/09/netflix-ceo-reed-hastings-to-depart-microsofts-board/

  7. Jacob Twitchel
    September 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    As a big Linux user myself, It bothers me to find out that I can't stream Netflix on my current distro. But I am going to be buying Windows 7 so when I get Netflix in the future I will still be able to stream movies. Hopefully they will stop using silverlight and use something more Linux friendly!

    • Danny Stieben
      October 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      We'll see how long it takes after Silverlight is officially dead before they switch to something else!

  8. Bogdan Moonfire
    September 25, 2012 at 7:08 am

    So you can't use the legal alternative even if you want to. Thanks, I'll stick to torrents and free streaming sites.

  9. Alvin Brinson
    September 25, 2012 at 2:36 am

    How about simply not subscribing to Netflix?

    If everyone jumps through hoops to get these services to work, they'll continue to make sure you have to jump through hoops to get them to work.

    • iowaporter
      September 25, 2012 at 5:50 am

      Right on. There is plenty of competition out there for Netflix. I personally like Hulu and Amazon VOD (both of which work on Linux). It isn't smart to alienate a potential customer base. By the time they get around to providing an option for Linux, we will have all moved on to other options.

    • Danny Stieben
      October 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      I agree that doing that is another possible option, but some people might want to stick with Netflix for their own reasons, whatever they may be.

  10. Matt
    September 24, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Also worth noting here, as has been noted many many times elsewhere, running a browser in wine does not work. A suggestion written in all caps is awfully strongly put, especially when it is downright wrong.

  11. Matt
    September 24, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Has anyone had success with ChromeOS running netflix? Based on the comments on the download site, it seems no one has been able to get it working.

    • Matt
      September 26, 2012 at 3:48 am

      Having spent some (too much) time trying to get the chromiumOS setup working, I have to assume the author of this article wrote that it would work without actually going through the trouble of checking. Too bad - it seemed like a good idea.

      • Danny Stieben
        October 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm

        I'm sure it'll actually work on ChromeOS. Just apparently not ChromiumOS.

  12. Simeon Prince
    September 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Excellent Post and right on the ball. I hope that they would use html5 since that is the future. Flash is not ideal at all. I run linux mint and the virtualbox solution works best for me. I use Windows XP as a guest OS. I wrote a post some time ago on Netflix too, take a look here http://goo.gl/FWSd2

    • Danny Stieben
      October 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      Personally, I think it's more likely that Netflix would develop their own proprietary tool rather than switch to HTML5, as HTML5 doesn't have any DRM features (or anything similar).

  13. Matt
    September 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I am curious as to whether anyone has had success with the ChromeOS solution posted here. Lime doesn't have virtualbox builds, though vanilla does. On http://crosqa.hexxeh.net/tags/netflix/ it seems that the answer is sadly that it does not work.

    • Danny Stieben
      October 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Oh darn. :(

      I forgot that Chrome came with codecs while Chromium didn't.

  14. Mahkoe
    September 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    RUN A BROWSER IN WINE

    • Tyler
      September 24, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      WHY ARE WE YELLING? Anyways.... some people do experience problems running a browser in wine, wine itself is a somewhat buggy application I have had multiple problems running certain applications in it. I personally prefer running a virtual machine of either windows XP or windows 7.

    • Danny Stieben
      October 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      According to a comment above, Silverlight doesn't seem to work under Wine. WIthout Silverlight, there's no Netflix.

  15. Triazo
    September 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I once spent a few hours tinkering with this. Apparently, there is a DRM problem with moonlight (linux equivilent of silverlight), so it doesn't run even if you trick netflix into thinking you are running windows. Silverlight doesn't work in wine either. One option that I haven't had the time (patience, really) to try fully is to run an android virtual machine and run the netflix android app on that, which might work better considering how resource intensive windows is.

    • Terry
      September 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Brilliant! I am going to try it in an Android VM.

      • Ric
        September 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

        From what I've seen on other sites (howtogeek dot com), this won't work either: "You could try to run the Netflix Android app in the Android SDK emulator, but it would be extremely slow. Even if it worked at a high enough speed, the app fails when attempting to play a video, according to users who’ve tried."

        • Danny Stieben
          October 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm

          Plus the content would be non-HD. Netflix had to agree to a clause with media providers that content streamed to insecure devices (aka mobile devices, etc) be non-HD only. HD content is apparently too valuable to have it possibly stolen through "insecure devices".

  16. Elrick Browne
    September 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I always wondered why they don't just use flash or just make their own proprietary closed source app!

    • Bahraam
      September 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm

      me too. It is really a pain. I thought Netflix didn't want to put effort in developing for Linux users. For a lot of companies this is quite an investment to release versions Linux. Like Evernote. Waiting for companies like Microsoft and Nvidia to develop and release for Linux sucks. We have been waiting for so long for ms exchange client for Linux, and it never happened. They will kill Skype for linux in a near future too. I really hope Netflix and similar companies start considering microsoft's downfall and make decisions for future.

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