Rejoice! Netflix now works on Linux with no Wine shenanigans required. All it takes to start watching Netflix on Linux right now is Chrome and a quick user agent tweak — and even that won't be necessary soon.
Now for the bad news: We could've all been watching Netflix on Linux with no headaches whatsoever for years now if Microsoft had stuck to its initial plans for the Silverlight plugin.
Let's dig in.
What you need to play Netflix on Linux
There are three ingredients you need for Netflix on Linux:
Google Chrome for Linux: You have to use Google Chrome for this — I'll explain why later. The current stable version of Chrome works just fine, so you don't need any beta software.
NSS 3.16.2 or greater: The Network Security Services package is a set of libraries used by Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and other applications. Netflix's encrypted media extensions require this.
On Ubuntu 14.04, a new version of NSS is now available as a normal update — just run Update Manager and install all the updates to get it.
On other Linux distributions, your distribution of choice may or may not include a recent enough version of NSS. If they don't plan on pushing out an update to NSS, you may want to upgrade to a Linux distribution that offers a more recent version NSS.
A User Agent hack — for now: Netflix is still blocking Linux-based browsers from playing Netflix content. On the Ubuntu mailing list, a Netflix employee said he'd be able to "make a case here to lift the User-Agent filtering" if Chrome for Linux embraced current versions of NSS. However, this hasn't happened yet. Follow the instructions below to modify your user agent so you can play Netflix on Linux without waiting for Netflix's internal bureaucracy.
The easiest way to do this is to install the User Agent Switcher extension for Chrome. Right-click the User Agent Switcher icon on your toolbar after installing it and select Options. Create a new rule with a name like "Netflix on Linux" and enter the following user agent string:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.3; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/38.0.2114.2 Safari/537.36
Set the Indicator field to IE and click the Add button. You can now choose the Netflix on Linux user agent from the toolbar icon and head over to the Netflix website — it should just work. Soon, you should be able to get rid of this extension and watch Netflix with no more hassle.
Why Netflix never worked on Linux: Microsoft's bait-and-switch
Netflix didn't used to work in Linux because — unlike most other video-playing sites, from YouTube to Hulu to Amazon Instant Video — Netflix chose to go with Microsoft's Silverlight browser plug-in instead of Adobe Flash. Adobe officially supports Flash on Linux, while Microsoft doesn't officially support Silverlight on Linux.
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