Netflix, Flash, Silverlight, support

Weird item at Motley Fool today: “This year, movie rental maven Netflix rewrote its streaming video service under a new toolset. Microsoft’s SilverLight has replaced the old Adobe Flash interface, and there was much rejoicing as the service became easier to use in a flash (pun intended). Some Netflix employees probably think it’s too good, even. Over the weekend, company spokesman Steve Swasey announced that Netflix doesn’t need 50 of its 300-odd customer support people anymore, because the SilverLight application simply doesn’t need a whole lot of support.”

This got picked up at Wall Street Journal and NewTeeVee, which referenced a source Netflix blogpost which doesn’t mention Flash.

I don’t recall that Netflix ever used Flash video. Searching their site shows few SWF, and searching on “adobe” shows only requests to move over to Flash video.

Looks like the Motley Fool conclusion may be based on an error in observation.

My best guess is that Netflix found it was easier to support Mac users for Silverlight than to try to help Mac and Linux users use Windows Media Player or Flip4Mac or other cross-platform video solutions from Microsoft. But it looks like Flash got mentioned only as a journalistic artifact, without discoverable relation to reality.

The Motley Fool writer concludes: “Microsoft seems to have hit a home run with SilverLight and is currently rounding the bases. If the product really is that much smoother and easier to support, then Adobe has a true challenge on its hands.” I assume from this assertion, that if he sees the reverse relation in support costs — that Silverlight imposes greater support costs than Flash, as we see in the forums — that he would then conclude that Microsoft’s challenges are even larger than they might first appear.

(If folks from Motley Fool stop by here, then thanks for visiting, and if you’de open up your comments and drop the registration bar, then such questions would be simpler to resolve, thanks.)

13 Responses to Netflix, Flash, Silverlight, support

  1. kingsnake says:

    Netflix streaming video used (and always has used) Windows Media protocols…which is why FireFox / Mac couldn’t play the videos via the “watch instantly” option through the browser. If you had a PC and IE 7 and WM10 (I believe) then you were able to view it. Recent changes do allow others, though to finally view the video. Motley Fool needs to double-check their facts before looking foolish…

  2. Rosyna says:

    Neither WMP nor Flip4Mac can play back DRM encoded content. (Rumor has it that MS refuses to license it to Mac developers).
    Silverlight includes the WM DRM component on the Mac.

  3. JesterXL says:

    It’s even worse. NetFlix actually was using WPF, meaning XP with an additional download or Vista. No Mac, no Linux. You effectively had to download and install their WPF plugin.
    So, they went from WPF to Silverlight, not from Flash to Silverlight. The Motely Fool crew are confused… cool name & hats, though!

  4. flashape says:

    that article reeks of microsoft “sponsorship” to say the least.

  5. Kevin Newman says:

    Dang, I hope they check their stock picks more thoroughly that this. 😐

  6. Charles Lai says:

    One major reason for the use of Silverlight is that with the latest update to the Xbox 360 OS, you can now play streaming video off Netflix. The video quality is very good, and if you already have a Xbox 360, there’s no need for an additional box underneath your TV to instantly watch over 12,000 movies. Because of this fact, I switched from Blockbuster to Netflix last week. Blu-Ray off my PS3 still looks the best, but the Netflix streaming looks fine on my 50″ HDTV.

  7. You’re exactly right, John, as are the other commenters. Netflix has never been Flash, it was one of my biggest gripes with Netflix (online viewing). It was Windows only. Silverlight is an improvement over their old model in that it’s now cross-platform, but it’s still Microsoft. What a misguided and ill-informed swipe at Flash!

  8. John Dowdell says:

    Thanks for the confirms, folks. It looks like other folks have signed up for comments at the original article, adding corrections, but the article itself hasn’t yet been updated, which might be necessary if it’s syndicated. These things happen… 😉
    But Netflix does report lowered support costs. I don’t know which DRM Microsoft offered Netflix before, but if there’s an improvement, that’s a good thing, right?

  9. Scott Barnes says:

    We didn’t sponsor the article.
    It’s Motley Fool come on.. next you’ll be blogging about “The Onion” and how they misquote various corporations as well heh.
    As for costs Silverlight vs Flash, our customers have told us we’re cheaper than Adobe. I’ll leave it to the Video folks within the team to fight that pepsi challenge out, but overall there’s no news in the above?
    Nothing to see here folks, move along now..

    Scott Barnes
    Rich Platforms Product Manager

  10. Eric says:

    Sorry, this was an unfortunate error.
    The article has been corrected and the original author (TMFZahrim) left a comment with his apologies in the article’s comments section.
    [jd sez: Thanks, Eric… appreciated!]

  11. PiperJon says:

    Yeah, except for one thing: Silverlight, while working for Mac machines, doesn’t seem to work worth a CRAP on Windows machines. Take a look around the web for ongoing problems with XP/Vista and Silverlight. My machine included, it simply doesn’t work, and Microsoft hasn’t bothered to respond to any of my requests for help.
    [jd sez: Sorry there are problems, but I know other people successfully install into XP and Vista. Perhaps a full uninstall/reinstall cycle, or MS support…? ]

  12. I agree with the above. do a search for “error 1001 netflix”. Its all over the internet for vista and mac users. Mine included. No other problems except for silverlight. Its definitely a DRM problem and yes, I’ve done all the clean uninstall/reinstall BS. Should have to do squat- if it was thoroughly tested and coded, it should just work…period!

  13. Chuck says:

    Silverlight does not work, by any measure, as well as the old interface for ‘watch instantly’, on PC. Google it. Works great on my macbook pro, but I have to turn the bitrate down to 500 just to make it watchable on PC. As for contacting MS for support on the matter? Are you joking? Netflix won’t admit there is a problem, and if you think MS will get back to you on an issue like this…
    Netflix says ‘you are paying for DVD rentals, streaming vid is a perk’. Fine. Oughta say so on the watch instantly tab, though. Silverlight works fine for me on other sites. Charge $5 more for Watch Instantly and I would imagine you could rehire the 50 techs and even get some reliable code written. 5 bucks, man.
    [jd sez: Sorry, I can’t help, I’ve no connection with Netflix. Looks like I’ll need to close comments on this blog entry, though, because it’s pulling search-engine hits.]