How to Stream Netflix Movies on Linux

The Practical Computer | By Tom Ledford

The Yards
Netflix, Firefox 29, Linux Mint 16 w/Cinnamon Desktop

C’mon Netflix. Give us a Linux video player!

As of yet, NetFlix doesn’t have a video player for Linux. NetFlix uses Microsoft’s Silverlight video player. Silverlight is available for Windows, Mac, Android tablets and phones, iPads and iPhones. It isn’t available for Linux. Ergo, no native NetFlix player. However, all is not lost! You can use the Linux, Windows emulator software, Wine to run a special version of Silverlight called Pipelight. It’s a good workaround. 

To be fair to NetFlix, they have finally decided to stop using Silverlight and begin using their proposed HTML5 premium video extensions. They are available now if you are using Internet Explorer 11, and Windows 8.1. 

Until Firefox or Chrome implement these extensions in their browsers¹². Linux users will need to use the work around explained here…

Work around step 1: Installing Pipelight in Linux

You will need to use your terminal window to enter commands, but don’t worry, it’s easy. You can open a terminal window from your Linux menu. 

You will also need to know the superuser (sudo, root) password for your system. You may have chosen to use your user password for the root password when you installed linux, but you will still need to type it in again, when asked for the “sudo” password after entering commands.

The following instructions are from the official Pipelight page. This is also where to start for Pipelight support, or if you just want to read more about Pipelight. 

Note: Most Linux Mint users should use the instructions for Ubuntu (unless your are using LMDE, the Debian Edition)

Pipelight – Installation

Work around step 2: Lie to NetFlix

Well, it really isn’t lying. It’s more like telling them to mind their own business. When you begin to stream a movie, NetFlix will try to determine what operating system you are using. If you attempt to stream a movie with Linux, NetFlix will give you their “Sorry, No can Do” page:

Sorry. 🙁  No Can Do 

User Agent Switcher

Now you need a Firefox and/or Chrome extension, that will allow you to tell Netflix you are running Firefox for Windows. When you attempt to stream a movie, Pipelight will automatically load WINE, Linux’s Windows emulator.

After installing the User Agent Switcher(s), to stream movies with Netflix, open their drop down menu by right clicking on the user agent and select “Firefox 15 for Windows”  

Set your browser back to the default user agent “Default” (Chrome), or “Linux / Firefox 26 (Firefox)*  when you are not streaming a movie.

That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to worry about Pipelight anymore. It will run whenever you start watching a movie.

You can get the User Agent Switcher extensions here:  

For Chrome

For Firefox 

* If you install Firefox 29 (and I recommend you do), since the User Agent Switcher for Firefox doesn’t have a “default” setting. You can paste the User Agent value for Firefox 29**, into the preferences window of the User Agent Overrider extension, and it will appear on the drop list. Or, you can disable the extension. 

It doesn’t hurt performance to leave it always set to Linux / Firefox 26, but some websites are expecting a newer browser version, i.e. Outlook will ask you to update to a newer browser. I use Chrome mostly,  so I just switch it’s user agent to default when I don’t need it for netflix.

** Find your user agent: 

Video Streaming Performance

In Windows on my now Linux laptop, I always watched Netflix movies full screen. But If I do so while in Linux, the video is jerky and audio seems lip synced like an old Godzilla movie. Streaming movies works well though, if I watch them in a smaller browser window. 

Streaming movies from NetFlix on Linux takes a performance hit because they have to run in a windows emulator, instead of directly in LinuxI’m sure is mostly a performance issue with my Linux laptop, though. It’s a  7 year old Toshiba Satellite with a 1.73 MHz dual core processor and 3 GB of RAM. You may be able to watch movies in full screen just fine on a faster Linux computer.

¹ Netflix ditches Silverlight with support for HTML5 video in IE11…
² Mozilla begrudgingly brings Netflix support to Linux with DRM in Firefox

For more about Linux:


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