Netflix is the oldest of the video-on-demand platforms and is arguably the one that invented the business. Google did not invent the search engine business, nor is it the oldest, but it is the company that dominates the market. This combination makes if you Google “How to watch Netflix on Linux” the first results you see are completely out of date.
The truth is that watching Netflix on Linux doesn't have too many secrets, and I'll tell you about the few that there are in this article.
Table of Contents
About flashes, silver lights and Steve Jobs
If we try to do something in this series of articles, a little longer than those we usually publish, is that you not only copy commands in the terminal, but that you understand what you are doing and its consequences. Anyway, you can go to the next section where the instructions are.
Watching Netflix on Linux is very easy. But making it happen took a lot of deliberation, mortally wounding a leading product at one big computer company, and a change of mind in the executive at another.
The history of web video viewing began with software called Future Splash. which included animation tools for a website that basically consisted of text and still photos. To see these animations, a special viewer was needed that was distributed with the main browsers of the time. Acquired by Macromedia, its name was shortened to Flash and it became the standard for playing multimedia content on the web.
In 2004, Flash included full support for video, and in 2007 it became the technology of choice for three engineers and one investor to power a video viewing service for videos produced and uploaded by users. We know it as Youtube and now it is owned by Google.
In 2007, Microsoft released its own streaming media technology known as Silverlight. Although it was never very popular among users, it was chosen by many companies and organizations to transmit copyrighted content. One of them was Netflix. That is why in many of the tutorials on how to watch Netflix on Linux you will find that they ask you to install something called Moonlight (the version of Silverlight for Linux). You do not have to do it.
When smart mobile devices started to become popular, Adobe (which had bought Macromedia) tried to port Flash without much success. Steve Jobs, who wanted to guarantee himself a monopoly on the distribution of applications for his devices, used it as an excuse to get rid of a technology that could allow developers to market applications without sharing the profits with Apple.
Flash still had a plus point (for content creators and distributors).
DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. This management consists of the use of technology to control and manage access to material protected by copyright. It is about restricting access and distribution of said content to what is permitted by the owner of those rights.
In general, the use of DRM consists of the use of computer code that disables the copying of content or limits the number of devices from which a product can be accessed, applications that restrict what users can do with their material or the encryption of digital media, which can only be accessed by those who have the decryption key.
Through the use of DRM it is achieved:
- Limit the ability of users to edit, save, share, forward, print, or take screenshots of content.
- Set deadlines for user access to content.
- Set access limitations by geographic location.
- Put watermarks that indicate the amount of content.
After much discussion, the W3C approved an extension called Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) that allowed to incorporate DRM technologies in the content displayed in players based on HTML 5. Netflix began testing it on mobile devices in 2013 and later extended it to its web version.
How to watch Netflix on Linux
Watching Netflix on Linux is as simple as choosing your preferred browser (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi or Brave are some of the compatible ones) and going to the Netflix website. Next, enter your username and password. A pop-up window may open asking for permission to install a plugin. Accept the installation and, after it is finished, if it does not automatically close and reopen the browser. With this you will be able to see the content without inconvenience.
It should be mentioned that, by not having a native Linux application, you will only have access to the possibilities of the web player. That is, for example, you will not be able to watch movies or series offline. Neither exist, as far as I know. third-party applications that allow downloading (other than screen capture via software or hardware. What there is is web applications that consist of little more than a browser that takes you directly to the page.
Some of them are:
- netflix-web: There really isn't too much to say about This application unless you don't even bother to install it Its developer didn't even bother to fill in a description and didn't activate the option to view protected content in the browser so it only serves to view the catalog and perform administrative functions.
- ElectronPlayer: If you watch content on Netflix, Youtube, Twitch, Floatplane, and Hulu, you'll probably be interested in this app that gives you quick access to all those sites. Much better programmed than the previous one, it allows you to opt for the full screen option, determine the service with which to start and hide the menu. In any case, it is still a browser.
Kodi is a software that allows you to turn your computer into a complete multimedia center. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux (Surely it is in the repositories of your distribution) it has complements that extend its functionality. One of them allows you to watch Netflix. In this case, it is an unofficial plugin, so the following tutorial does not include guarantees.
Please note that section names may be different in different variants of Spanish.
- Install Kodi from your distribution's package manager.
- Click on the icon sprocket (upper left corner)
- Active Show notifications.
- Active Unknown origins.
- Download the corresponding plug-in version.
- press on the cogwheel icon.
- Press in Add-ons. (Second button of the first row)
- Press on Install from zip files.
- Search the file and click to install it.
- Press en Install from repositories.
- press about Castagna IT Repository for Kodi.
- Choose Video add-ons.
- Choose Netflix.
- Press en Install.
- press en Ok.
- Back to the main screen and click on Add-ons.
- press en Netflix.
DRM-free alternatives to Netflix
Unsurprisingly, the addition of DRM technologies to web standards did not sit well with the free and open source software community. Since those technologies severely limit the rights of end users, campaigns are carried out to combat their use and avoid subscribing to services like Netflix that actively use them.
As an alternative, they suggest consuming content from the following sites that these restrictions do not apply:
- archive of movies Archive.org: A collection of classic and recent movies and videos.
- Miro Guide: Catalog of podcasts and videos.
- PeerTube: Federated Platform to share videos based on the principles of free software. There are instances that cover many different topics.
- Wikimedia Commons: The site Wikipedia media content storage.
- CinéMutins: Independent cinema with a social theme in French.
- Funimation: streaming site anime in Japanese and English. It is not available in all countries.
- GOG.COM: Portal sales of movies and games. The games, although they do not have DRM, are not always free software.
- highspots.com: Wrestling and mixed martial arts content.
- RiffTrax: Portal to watch movies and discuss them with friends.
- VRV: Science fiction, anime and tech culture content. Restricted by geographical areas.
- Wakanin: Selection anime dubbed and subtitled. Geographically restricted.