The Browser Wars, and What They Mean for Your Content Strategy

Posted by piksel


Though not widely publicized, the developer community has been abuzz for many months with news of Google Chrome withdrawing its support from Microsoft Silverlight (a browser plug-in that enables online media experiences). While this is good for the stability of Google’s newest browser iteration (Chrome 40), it’s not so great for those using the Silverlight plugin for streaming media. As a result, any video content that is filtered through Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM won’t work on Chrome browsers. Players that won’t play is an annoyance for viewers for sure, but turns into a potentially significant problem for OTT and pay-tv providers who could end up losing viewers. In addition, by not having Silverlight - and with the introduction of new media frameworks – video content providers are running into issues with protecting their video content.

The Breakdown: Why Did Google Chrome Stop Playing Nice?

It’s nothing new: the tech giants have been bruising each other in varying bouts of browser wars for years. As technology keeps adapting, it does pose a problem for those using various technologies to provide content to users. A brief history on Google’s newest browser update sets the stage for content providers distributing and protecting their content.

In 2007, Microsoft released Silverlight, which upset the current streaming technology competitor, Adobe’s Flash. It (obviously) came with the Internet Explorer browser, as well as a plugin for other browsers. A year later, Google changed the streaming landscape again, by releasing the Chrome browser – eventually becoming the leader in market and overtaking Internet Explorer as the most popular browser.

When Google introduced Chrome, it worked with the Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI), but also offered the Pepper Plugin API (PPAPI) to make plugins easy and more secure to use across varying platforms (including video streaming platforms).

Since the release of the PPAPI – Adobe updated its Flash Player to work only with the API, but Microsoft decided not to update the Silverlight player to Google’s API – instead focusing on its own HTML/Java functionality.

Last fall, Google announced that it has decided to stop supporting the NPAPI – with the reasoning that the API was old, outdated technology that was the primary reason of browser crashes, security issues, and so on. This past January Google pulled support for the API, leaving those who use Microsoft’s Silverlight (and subsequently PlayReady DRM) somewhat in the lurch.

What are the Options for Silverlight/PlayReady Users?

Unfortunately, neither Google nor Microsoft has offered a sleek solution for streaming video content. Because the typical video consumer of today is watching video through a myriad of devices, there are big issues in providing the right solution that will translate a single piece of video content into the right framework for each device. Currently, those that use Silverlight can adapt a Flash player using Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming plugin (although this is not an elegant solution), or users may be forced to open up a different browser in order to view the content. This of course, could end up being a huge pain for Pay-TV providers.

Distributing and Protecting Video Content

There are a number of DRM technologies in the market (see the whitepaper below), the major players being Microsoft PlayReady, Widevine Modular DRM, and Marlin Broadband. As part of the distribution process, a DRM is a necessary part in the content delivery schema. There are options to get around having a full DRM (which by definition unathorizes, or removes the ability for the user to copy and redistribute the content), for example through the use of a paywall or through encryption batching (HLS encryption). But in each of these instances, it is more about content protection as opposed to having the full rights to manage. These instances will allow you to get the monetized value of a limited play of a piece of content – but with a full DRM, it’s possible to completely protect your video content while allowing a user a lot more variety in viewing the content the paid for (through the use of rental, playback on various platforms, etc.).

With Chrome eliminating support for Silverlight and ultimately for PlayReady, along with the fast-paced changes in content protection and distribution technology, there is an increasing need for a unique multi-DRM strategy. To succeed in the content distribution industry, it is critical that providers are ensuring a high quality viewing experience for consumers, while protecting the rights of their content to get the maximum benefit out of monetization strategies.

Even with the potential adaption of MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) framework, there will still be a pressing, even increasing need for Digital Rights Management, as viewers consume more video content on multiple devices.


Interested in where the DRM landscape is headed? Download our whitepaper, ‘Understanding key technologies and drivers impacting premium content distributors.’




Topics: Insights, Google, content strategy, Analysis, silverlight, chrome, digital rights management, drm, microsoft