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 I assume it was just some outdated user agent filter.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!