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Netflix on Firefox for Linux

By Andrew Powell, published 23/10/2016 in Tutorials


If you're a Firefox user and you're a little fed up with going to Google Chrome every time in order to watch Netflix on your Linux machine, the good news is since Firefox 49 landed, HTML5 DRM (through the Google Widevine CDM (Content Decryption Manager) plugin) is now supported. Services that use DRM for HTML5 media should now just work, such as Amazon Prime Video. Unfortunately, the Netflix crew haven't 'flicked a switch' yet behind the scenes for Firefox on Linux, meaning if you run Netflix in the Mozilla browser at the moment, you'll likely just come across the old Silverlight error page. But there is a workaround.

For some reason, Netflix still expects Silverlight when it detects the user is running Firefox, despite the fact that the latest Firefox builds for Linux now support the HTML5 DRM plugin.

netflixfirefox49

Sad face.

However, there is a simple workaround for now by tricking Netflix into thinking you are actually running something like Google Chrome, by changing the browser user-agent. There's probably multiple plugins and methods for doing this, but I did it with a site-specific user-agent switcher called UAControl.

If you install that add-on (or any user-agent switcher, but this one allows you to just target Netflix.com if you so wish), all you'll need to do is restart Firefox, head to Netflix.com and do the following:

  • Click and hold the mouse button on the new UAControl button that should be in the top right of the browser (see image below)
  • On the drop-down menu, click "UAControl Options for this Site..."
  • You'll be brought up with a dialog window where you can choose three actions (again, see image below)
  • Choose "Custom" and enter the following into the box: Linux / Chrome 53: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Ubuntu; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/535.11 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/53.0.2785.34 Safari/537.36
netflixfirefoxuacontrol

Hit 'OK' a couple times until you're back on Netflix, refresh the page, and you should be good to go! You may have to let Firefox install the DRM plugin if it hasn't already, but it will prompt you automatically to do so. If it doesn't, check Preferences/Content and make sure "Play DRM Content" is checked.

Enjoy!

netflixfirefox49working

Current Caveats

It seems to work as it should, but just occasionally I found Netflix video wouldn't play until I refreshed the page. Performance and CPU usage doesn't seem to be quite on par with Chrome for Linux when playing Netflix video either, but that may be due to optimizations that are yet to come for Firefox for Linux in regards to the HTML5 DRM plugin. Your mileage may vary of course, but importantly, it works generally.

Who knows, by the time you read this article, the Netflix guys may even make the change and you won't need this workaround! But if you're currently encountering the annoying old Silverlight prompt on Firefox, this will work fine.


About the author

Andrew Powell is the editor and owner of The Linux Rain who loves all things Linux, gaming and everything in between.

Tags: firefox netflix tutorials drm firefox-49 html5 user-agents tips
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