Netflix, OSS, and me

So after much prodding from friends, I signed up for Netflix. It wasn’t the great turnaround on the DVD delivery, or the excellent customer service that drove me over; it was the rave reviews of their “Watch Instantly” movie streaming service. For $8.99 a month, you get unlimited hours of movies streamed, plus 1 DVD out at a time. Sounded like a deal, plus, 2 week free trial – how can you go wrong?

I logged in, selected a movie, and hit play. And that’s when things went all wrong.

It required Internet Explorer. As you all should know by now, I’m a Linux guy, deep down. Reluctantly I switched over to Windows to give it a shot, but IE wasn’t enough – no sir, it wanted Windows Media Player 11 and the latest version of Windows Genuine Advantage. Seeing as I regard both these “services” as little more than particularly invasive spyware, I decided it wasn’t really worth my time and hit the big red “cancel my account” link in the My Account page. It asked a lot of questions about the streaming service, and I answered honestly and as fully as I could. It also said to call if I had questions or comments, so I did. The guy was nice and understood what I said, said he would note it. (As an aside, while on the phones, I hate people like me.)

It’s really irritating that people do that. Netflix are not the only ones, either – Yahoo’s Launch music service did this for years. There’s really absolutely no (good) reason to use WMP/Windows-only formats over, say, Ogg Theora. Who really needs DRM? DRM is useless, every form of it that gets developed gets broken almost immediately. You don’t have to break your product with proprietary obfuscation tactics and secret rootkits to make it successful – in fact, people backlash against you for it. Hasn’t the market proven this already, time and time again? I mean, who knew that a lot of people don’t like being screwed? Look at Launch – when was the last time someone was telling you about that service? Yet we see universally friendly platforms like Last.fm and Pandora (my personal favorite) exploding onto the scene.

Netflix, Theora is a better container, open source, and universally supported. That means it’s also cheaper since you don’t have to license anything from anyone.  And the really nerdy crowd – the ones that are really likely to be on Linux – and the really trendy crowd – the ones that like to use Macs – are both going to have problems using this new, nerdy, trendy tech as long as you stick with this software model. So! Open your eyes and hearts to the joys of open source software, people. Microsoft is old and busted, OSS is the new hotness. Can ya dig it?