Mozilla Firefox Reluctantly Embraces Encrypted Media Extensions

Business / Tech

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ghacks is reporting that Mozilla will be implementing EME’s (Encrypted Media Extensions) into their Firefox web browser after resisting the idea for quiet some time now. With the web changing rapidly and new technologies, such as HTML 5, being adopted, companies like Microsoft, Google and Netflix needed to find a way to allow users to play DRM (Digital Rights Management) protected content. Encrypted Media Extensions were the solution they turned to. Mozilla has a history of open source and trying to keep things user controlled, so you can imagine their resistance. Here’s a little excerpt from the ghacks article, which explains this much better than I could. It’s really a great read so be sure to hit the link to read it in its entirety. 

Encrypted Media Extensions is a new technology to control the playback of protected contents in HTML5.  Plugins like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight have supported DRM for quite some time and are used by streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime currently.

The move towards a plugin-free Web and the rise of HTML5 posed a problem which Google, Microsoft, Netflix and others tried to resolve by proposing Encrypted Media Extensions (EME).

With support from both Google and Microsoft it was clear that EME would be implemented in Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer.  Content Provider such as Netflix are moving away from plugins to a solution that uses Encrypted Media Extensions as well.

Organizations such as Mozilla criticized the use of a proprietary Content Decryption Module that was not described in the specification itself.

This raises a big problem for Mozilla. The organization prefers different approaches to protecting content but since major web browsers and streaming providers are moving ahead with the integration of EME, it is problematic not to implement the feature as well

Considering that streaming video is highly popular and that major providers such as Amazon, Netflix or Hulu will make use of it in the future, it would prevent Firefox users from accessing those contents in the web browser.

While that is an option, it would likely mean that users would use other browsers for the streaming, and maybe for all other web activities as well.

That’s why Mozilla decided to implement the W3C EME specification in Firefox as well. EME will be implemented in Firefox for desktop first, but users are given a choice and the implementation will be different from that in other browsers.

For Mozilla, it is an awkward step considering that the organization promotes an Open Web and that DRM is everything but, especially since a proprietary module is used.

While there is no way around this, Mozilla decided to make this as transparent and open as possible. The organization selected Adobe to provide the CDM, but instead of loading it as a module directly in Firefox, it will be wrapped into an open-source sandbox.

This means that the module does not have access to the user’s hard drive or network but only with options to communicate with Firefox “for receiving encrypted data and for displaying the results”.

The CDM uses fingerprinting to identify systems. This usually means a fingerprint for the computer system. Mozilla’s implementation on the other hand creates a unique identifier without revealing information about the underlying system or the user. In addition, that unique identifier is modified across sites.

Continue reading at ghacks

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Source: ghacks

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