Netflix today announced that it has finally taken the first step towards ditching Silverlight for HTML5, largely thanks to Microsoft, no less. The company has been working closely with the Internet Explorer team to implement its proposed “Premium Video Extensions” in IE11 on Windows 8.1, meaning if you install the operating system preview released today, you can watch Netflix content using HTML5 right now.

Back in April, Netflix revealed its plans to use HTML5 video in any browser that implements its proposed “Premium Video Extensions.” These extensions allow playback of premium video directly in the browser without the need to install plugins such as Silverlight or Flash.

According to Netflix, Microsoft made this possible by implementing three features in its still-unfinished IE11:

  • The Media Source Extensions (MSE), using the Media Foundation APIs within Windows. Since Media Foundation supports hardware acceleration using the GPU, Netflix can achieve high quality 1080p video playback with minimal CPU and battery utilization.
  • The Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) using Microsoft PlayReady DRM. This provides the content protection needed for media services like Netflix.
  • The Web Cryptography API (WebCrypto), which allows Netflix to encrypt and decrypt communication between its JavaScript application and its servers.

Unsurprisingly, Netflix is thrilled with Microsoft’s work:

We expect premium video on the web to continue to shift away from using proprietary plugin technologies to using these new Premium Video Extensions. We are thrilled to work so closely with the Microsoft team on advancing the HTML5 platform, which gets a big boost today with Internet Explorer’s cutting edge support for premium video. We look forward to these APIs being available on all browsers.

While IE is still a very popular browser, it does not have the stranglehold on the industry that it once had. Netflix will thus have to work very hard to convince the likes of Google, which is already making strides in Chrome OS, and Mozilla to implement the same extensions if it really wants to move away from Silverlight and to HTML5 video once and for all.

Whether you attended Build today or not, the details you need to get the Windows 8.1 preview are here.

Top Image Credit: Peter Szustka