Fedora

Netflix doesn’t block Fedora users any more!

Two weeks ago, I blogged about the fact that Netflix was blocking Chrome and Firefox with Fedora user agents although those browsers are now officially supported on Linux.  The blogpost got a lot of publicity, almost 5000 hits, and I was even accused of creating clickbaits on reddit 🙂 But it led to the wanted result – solving the issue.

Someone pointed me to Paul Adolph from Netflix. He no longer works in the department which is responsible for user agent filtering, but was very helpful and forwarded the issue to responsible engineers. They never told me why they were blocking Fedora (and it turned out other distributions such as CentOS, Debian, openSUSE too), but promised to fix it within the next couple of weeks. I assume it was just some outdated user agent filter.

I tested it today and it seems to be fixed, both for Chrome and Firefox. And also not only for Fedora, but also for other distributions (I tested CentOS, Debian, and openSUSE). So now you can watch Netflix on Fedora without any user agent tweaking. Just keep in mind that for Firefox you need to install ffmpeg Firefox is using for media playback, Chrome should work out of the box.

I’d like to thank Netflix for resolving the situation pretty quickly.

Fedora

Netflix blocks Fedora users

Netflix should finally support their HTML5 player in Firefox 52 on Linux.  This version has already landed in Fedora and been there for a couple of weeks and we’ve already received complaints from users who are confused. Both Netflix and Mozilla claim it should work, but it doesn’t for them.

Netflix still forwards them to their Silverlight player.  That’s pretty much a showstopper because Silverlight has been dead for quite a few years and it has never been easy to make it work on Linux.

In fact, Firefox 52 in Fedora does work with Netflix. As we found out the problem is in the user agent. The default user agent is:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Fedora; Linux x86_64; rv:52.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/52.0

If you remove “Fedora” from the user agent, Netflix suddenly stops offering Silverlight and just works. One would say that they only want to support official builds from Mozilla and allow only the upstream user agent. It would be an unfortunate way to do it, but at least partly understandable. But things get really weird when you try replacing “Fedora” with  random strings. Because then it also works which means that Netflix blocks Fedora specifically!

Netflix has supported Chrome for much longer and it also has behaved the same there. We set the Fedora user agent via an extension and the only reason why it works in Chrome on Fedora is that we blacklisted the netflix.com domain for the Fedora user agent.

We could do the same in Firefox, but I think it’s something that should be fixed on the side of Netflix. Users should not be denied a service based on their user agent. It takes us 15 years back when Opera had to fake its user agent to work with websites. Moreover Fedora isn’t anyhow different in this than other Linux distributions, so why is it blocked while others are not?

As a Netflix customer, I tried to call their support. I got to a first line support person who didn’t have much of a clue, trying to convince me that Silverlight works just fine on Fedora (which is not really true). So I tried to explain the problem and asked if they could pass it on to responsible engineers. We’ve also been trying to reach them through various contacts. Linux is not probably an important platform for Netflix, but they at least care enough to block specifically Fedora, so they should care enough to fix it. Moreover there are many Linux engineers in the company who could care, too. If you know anyone working in Netflix, please tell them about this and ask them to pass it on to responsible people. If you’re both a Netflix and Fedora user, you may also try to contact their support and let them know that it doesn’t work for you. Maybe if they collect more such cases it will make them look at it.

Edit: I’ve been told that Netflix also blocks user agents of other popular distros. So to make it work you can replace “Fedora” with random strings so long as it’s not “openSUSE”, “Debian”,  “CentOS”. The only exception is Ubuntu which is not blocked.

Edit2: I’ve managed to contact the right people in Netflix and they promised to fix it within the next couple of weeks!

Fedora

Most popular web browsers among Fedora users

Google Chrome is the most popular browser in the world. It is so popular that some call it a new Internet Explorer. But that’s based on global stats. In Red Hat, I’m responsible for web browsers, so I wondered what are the most popular web browsers among Fedora users. So I asked through Fedora accounts on Facebook and Google+: “Which browser do you use the most in Fedora?”

I didn’t look for exact numbers. It’s clear that such polls can’t be 100% representative and for instance Google+ users have inclination to use Google products which can be seen on the comparison of results from Facebook and Google+. However, I think the results give you a rough idea of what browsers are popular among Fedora users. And the results are:

fedora-browsersThe surveys differed a bit. G+ supports polls, but only up to five options. So I pre-selected five browsers I expected would be most popular, and told the users to write a browser of their choice to comments if it’s not among pre-selected options. Facebook natively doesn’t support polls, so users wrote their preferences in comments. Even though other browsers were not discriminated by not being pre-selected the results were very similar. None of them got more votes than any of the pre-selected five. The total amount of votes on Facebook was considerable lower than on Google+ (1262). And the findings?

  • Firefox and Chrome/Chromium are the only relevant browsers among Fedora users. They take up to 95% of the pie. Opera and Epiphany were a bit more popular among Fedora users on Facebook, but neither of them exceeded 5%. All other browsers got just a couple of votes: Midori, Konqueror, SeaMonkey, Pale Moon, Vivaldi, Lynx,…
  • Firefox was the winner, a pretty clear one on Facebook and a close one on Google+ (49% vs 48%). Firefox is the default browser, so it’s not surprising.
  • What really surprised me is the huge difference between Chrome and Chromium. I thought there would be more people who prefer open source solutions, but apparently a lot more people prefer convenience even among Fedora users. You can find Chromium in alternative repos and it’s easy to install, but it doesn’t include Flash player and other closed source goodies. With Chrome, you get it all with an installation of one package. In terms of numbers of users, Chromium is pretty much irrelevant if you compare it to Chrome.
  • Quite a few people said that they were primarily using Firefox, but they had Chrome for Flash. When Flash goes finally away, Chrome will lose one of its significant advantages.
  • Opera used to have a market share of ~10% among Linux users. In this survey, it got 4.9% (FB) and 1.7% (G+). It took them more one year to release the new generation of Opera (based on Chromium) for Linux after they discontinued the original Opera (12.16). Apparently most users left and never came back (I’m one of them).
Fedora

Chrome and missing key

Are you using Chrome in Fedora? You might have noticed messages about a missing public key and you may have encountered problems with updating the application. That’s because Google fails to provide the public key for the Chrome RPM package. It’s become a serious problem in Fedora 22 where it aborts the update process completely and the package can’t be updated. The most convenient solution for users would be importing they key while installing the package, but some argue that an RPM should never automatically import keys.

Another solution is to simply add the following line to the repo file that the installation creates:

gpgkey=https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub

And you’ll be asked to confirm the key import during the next updating. This solution is a one-liner. It was reported to Google 10 months ago and the problem has not been fixed yet. This a bright example of problems with using proprietary software. You’re completely dependent on the vendor and on their will to solve your problems. Fedora developers are sometimes accused of not caring about how proprietary software runs on Fedora. At least here in the desktop team, we do care because we care about the experience our users have using Fedora. But in most cases including this one, we just can’t do anything. I can only advise you to import the key manually to get rid of the problems:

sudo rpm --import https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub