One year ago, Netflix began looking at Silverlight primarily as a way to get media streamed to Macintosh computers. When we dug in further, we also wanted to broaden support for Firefox. Then we discovered we could produce a better solution for all platforms by eradicating platform-specific code, enabling us as a business to concentrate on producing the best possible experience for all of our customers.
Installers are evil! roughly 20% of our customers who had the appropriate system requirements wouldn’t make it through the process. A lot of the complexity came from the content protection issues. Now Netflix is out of the installer business – there’s just a one-time install that is supported by Microsoft that includes content protection and all the other media elements we need, allowing us to focus on our core business of helping our customers find and watch great movies.
Why is Silverlight uniquely suited for delivering these kinds of experiences? We’ve found that Silverlight is a great platform for developing video players. We want our customers to be able to start watching the video fast and then step up to a higher bit rate as soon as possible, all using a generic HTTP-serving infrastructure. But if we step up the bit rate too quickly, we get stuck in a rebuffering experience.
We’re learning by doing and enhancing our player on a regular basis. We’re using Silverlight to deliver better players transparently to our customers every two weeks without having to take them through a new install. Since we launched our player last November, we’ve halved the rebuffer rate. With our old video player, we were afraid to touch it because we knew it would be a painful experience to our customers – we’d therefore only update it every year. With Silverlight, we’re constantly enhancing!
The media stream source API gives us access at the right point in the pipeline to be able to really push the player. After we’ve done the innovation on Silverlight, we’re also able to take these same experiences and drive them into device-based players like Xbox and Roku.
In Silverlight 3, we’re looking forward to taking advantage of some new features from Microsoft, in particular GPU support for scaling and stretching video, expanding the range of processors and price points for running video playback, as well as taking advantage of all the other innovations and features that Microsoft have added over the last twelve months. We’re very happy with Silverlight.