Last spring I wrote about how the Netflix app wouldn’t run on rooted Android hardware. That unfortunate fact led me to investigate Magisk; its “root hide” and SafetyNet bypass features enables Android modders to enjoy not only Netflix but Pokémon GO and Android Pay as well.
Over the weekend, however, another issue with Netflix for Android has surfaced: according to XDA some high-powered devices, like the OnePlus 5T and ZTE Axon M, are unable to stream Netflix video in HD.
The reason for this has to do with the logo at the top of this post. Widevine is one of the oldest and most-used DRM solutions for digital content. It’s widely used for video games, Blu-Ray systems, Amazon Prime Video and—you guessed it—Netflix. There are actually different certification levels for Widevine-protected content; only Level 1 certification will permit playback of content in HD and above. Google’s Pixels and Samsung Galaxy class flagships have L1 certification; OnePlus is currently only certified at Level 3.
Oh, and did I mention that Google acquired Widevine in 2010?
Blame for this mess can be thrown in all directions, Google, Netflix, OnePlus… But it might be easier to just agree that DRM in general is terrible for users. Net neutrality is not the only threat to an open Internet; DRM-encumbered services are another means by which the Internet of tomorrow might end up looking much more like the cable television of today.