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Netflix has been available natively on Linux for quite some time now, but the last time we addressed this topic there were a lot things you had to do to make sure that you were able to play any content.
Previously, you had to make sure you were using a specific version of Google Chrome in order to have the required Encrypted Media Extension (EME) support, a specific version of NSS (Network Security Services made by Mozilla), you had to install a User Agent Switcher extension in Chrome and finally you had to change your User Agent to trick Netflix into thinking that you were using Windows.
Thankfully, all of that has become unnecessary and using Netflix natively on Linux is now really easy and basically all you need to do is use Google Chrome. “Seriously?”, absolutely, just go to Netflix.com with Google Chrome and you’ll be able to seamlessly watch Netflix content. Additionally, you have the option to turn Netflix into a Desktop Application via Google Chrome’s Web-App tools. You’ll find a tutorial for creating this Desktop Application later in this article.
Is it Really that Easy?
Yes, in fact, Netflix activated support for native Linux in Chrome thanks to Ubuntu and other distros working alongside Netflix in making the HTML5 DRM work for Linux users. Netflix’s Paul Adolph explained in an email to the Ubuntu Developer mailing list what was needed for seamless native playback and within just a few days Ubuntu pushed the solution to 14.04 LTS and even 12.04 LTS.
The following is an excerpt from the email that Paul Adolph sent to the Ubuntu Developers:
“Netflix will play with Chrome stable in 14.02 if NSS version 3.16.2 or greater is installed. If this version is generally installed across 14.02, Netflix would be able to make a change so users would no longer have to hack their User-Agent to play.”
Canonical already had support for full native playback in Ubuntu 14.10+ but with the update pushed to LTS users of both 14.04 and 12.04 it showed the dedication that Linux distros like Ubuntu have for the experience of their users. Additionally the support for Ubuntu 14.04 and 12.04 provided out of the box native playback support for all the derivative/flavor distros of Ubuntu such as Linux Mint, Linux Lite, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, and many more.
Thanks to the effort of the major Linux Distributions, Mozilla for NSS, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for HTML5 Video & EME specs, and Google for the EME support in Chrome; Netflix is now available natively throughout the entire Linux community.
Is Netflix Only Available via Google Chrome?
At the time of writing, yes, Google Chrome is currently the only browser that provides playback of Netflix content natively on Linux. This is not going to be the case for too much longer as Firefox has implemented support for EME in the Windows versions of Firefox so support for Firefox on Linux is inevitable at this point.
NSS, the Last Piece of the Puzzle Was Provided by Mozilla but Firefox Can’t Use It?
Actually the reason Firefox doesn’t support native Netflix playback is due to the lack of EME support on the Linux version of their browser. Mozilla is an advocate and proponent of spreading the ideals of Open Source Software so including DRM inside of the HTML5 Standards would be a setback for the Open Source Community as a whole.
Unfortunately for the Open Source Community, once the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) added EME to the HTML5 Specifications for Web Standards it became imperative that Mozilla add support for EME in order to stay competitive in the Web Browser Market. Essentially, Mozilla doesn’t have much of a choice if they want to keep and gain users so they have reluctantly agreed to have support for EME in Firefox.
Turn Netflix into a Desktop Application on Linux
As I stated earlier in the article, you can create a Desktop Application on Linux via the Google Chrome “Add to desktop” feature and here’s how to do it. The process is very easy and pretty straight forward so first just go to Netflix.com in Google Chrome. Once you are the front page, you don’t need to login but you can if you want to, click the Hamburger icon in the top right of the Chrome browser. Hamburger icon might seem like an odd term, that’s because it is odd, but that is the nickname of the 3 horizontal line icon that is becoming popular these days. Next hover your mouse, or select with your keyboard, the More tools option to reveal an additional menu. In the More tools menu, click the Add to desktop option to begin the application creation.
The Application Creation is also very easy, all you need to do is click the Add button in the dialog popup that displays. The Open as window option makes the new application open in a separate window than the default Chrome window, since this is what we want anyway just leave it checked.
Netflix Natively and Easily on Linux!
Thanks to all the efforts on various sides we now have Netflix natively on Linux without applying any workarounds; it just works “out of the box”. With a little bit of effort we can also create a Linux Desktop Application for Netflix.
Since you’ll probably want content recommendations once you’re ready to Netflix on Linux, we have rounded up sources to help you discover movies and TV shows to watch on Netflix.