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Inside Netflix's WebKit-Based UI For TV Devices

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the making-things-pretty dept.

GUI 39

DeviceGuru writes with this interesting snippet on a modern approach to GUI design: "Netflix uses WebKit, JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS3 to build user interfaces that are delivered to millions of game consoles, Blu-ray players, Internet-connected TVs, and devices such as the Roku player and D-Link Boxee Box. Matt McCarthy and Kim Trott, device UI engineering managers at Netflix, have just published 50 presentation slides from their recent talk at OSCON 2011 in which they explained how Netflix develops its WebKit-based user interfaces."

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Slides? Slides?! (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#37361768)

We don't need no stinking slides.

Re:Slides? Slides?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37363476)

Slides or it didn't happen!

All of those platforms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37361788)

And no linux support... :(

Re:All of those platforms... (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#37361938)

That's because the MPAA and other content holders think we are all thieves and cheapskates and that we would not pay for it in the first place, or if we did we would steal it.

Re:All of those platforms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37362046)

ironically, the tools for pirating and listening to pirated media are better on Windows.

Re:All of those platforms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37362120)

They are? Transmission is the best torrent app around and you certainly can't beat mplayer/VLC.

Re:All of those platforms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37364258)

lol

Re:All of those platforms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37362236)

Self fulfilling prophecy.
If it doesn't work on linux, on course I'm going to pirate it.

Yar har,

Re:All of those platforms... (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37363570)

Actually, there is TONS of Linux support. Almost every network-connected TV and BD player runs Linux these days. There is just no Linux *desktop* support...

(Ironically, for all the disadvantages if they had stuck with Flash it would be supported on Linux desktops...)

Re:All of those platforms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37364190)

The flash alternative is Amazon Prime. You get their instant VOD with Prime and their selection often looks a lot like Netflix.

Re:All of those platforms... (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37364220)

Or Vudu if you actually want new movies with a great user interface. Though you have to pay new movie rental (over-)prices in that case...

that would explain ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37361830)

that would explain why their UI sucks and is unreliable on set top boxes.

Re:that would explain ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37361882)

what

Re:that would explain ... (1)

Fuzi719 (1107665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37362834)

+1! The Netflix UI on the WDTV Live Plus just plain sucks, it is slow and unresponsive in the extreme. Other interfaces, like HuluPlus, run very well comparatively.

Re:that would explain ... (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#37363126)

Huh? The interface on the Roku is pretty good. It's the web interface that sucks. If they changed the Roku interface to match the one on the web, I think I'd drop them.

good ideas, old ideas (2)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 2 years ago | (#37361908)

I read the presentation and I found it interesting because of the challenges of developing the interface for a wide variety of platforms with vastly differing capabilities. I am in a constant battle with my own software guys to get them to develop for a lower performance hardware, instead of always giving me code that needs the next generation hardware to have an acceptable user experience. Sometime I miss the old days when software developers HAD to think about the hardware they were running on and optimize their software appropriately. I can remember when some software would actually run TOO fast when it was run on newer faster computers....Those days are long gone, many of the software guys I know have little understanding of what goes on under the hood and really don't care unfortunately - I am going to make sure some of them read this presentation

Re:good ideas, old ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37362470)

Sometime I miss the old days when software developers HAD to think about the hardware they were running on and optimize their software appropriately. I can remember when some software would actually run TOO fast when it was run on newer faster computers

Actually, the reason software back then would run too fast was because developers were thinking TOO MUCH about the hardware THEY were running it on, and not thinking enough about the hardware it will actually be running on.

Re:good ideas, old ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37362640)

This is an easy problem to fix. Replace their development computers with systems that meet the minimum specs for your software.

Sure, there will be some productivity lost due to increased compile times, and other impacts, but will it cost more in the long run than having to go back and rework the software?

You save money by not having to buy brand-new top-of-the-line systems, and the applications will work on the lower performance hardware.

Performance tips (2)

bmuon (1814306) | more than 2 years ago | (#37361910)

Some performance tips make sense. CSS transforms basically paint an image into GPU memory, so this makes a lot of sense:

Keep layers small
– Don’t inadvertently create gigantic layers
– Memory consumption = width x height x 4 (bit depth)

However, other tips don't make as much sense:

Use closures sparingly & only where necessary

Closures are in the heart of JavaScript. You can't avoid them even if you want to. Instead, learn to write destruction lifecycles for your objects in which you expressively remove references that may cause leaks.

Re:Performance tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37362114)

templates are in the heart of C++. you can't avoid them even if you want to. instead, learn to write generic patterns for your interfaces in which you accept any container type.

businesses will butcher programming languages. learn to live with it.

Can't count GNU/Linux machines with Netflix (1)

udachny (2454394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37362044)

Well, one thing you surely can't do is count GNU/Linux installations with Netflix. This is what "Linux Counter" can be used for - to prove that there is enough demand in this market.

Re:Can't count GNU/Linux machines with Netflix (1)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 2 years ago | (#37362468)

How about counting !windows && !mac users of netflix instead? BSD has linux emulation.. we can benefit from linux netflix too.

We have the bsdstats project to try to track bsd users. It's only a good sampling of PC-BSD as they install it by default.

Re:Can't count GNU/Linux machines with Netflix (1)

HAKdragon (193605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37362790)

Netflix already does some statistic collection for how many of each client is being used - I remember and some gaming show they mentioned how many people watch Netflix on each of the consoles. The biggest problem with attempting to watch Netflix on Linux (or BSD) is the fact that there is no application nor a browser plugin. Supposedly somebody is working on a Chrome plugin which is based on the ChromeOS plugin, but I haven't seen anything about it actually working just yet.

Re:Can't count GNU/Linux machines with Netflix (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37362480)

I cared about that before I ditched them. But then again, I didn't care that much because I found it to be more cost effective to buy a Roku than to pay a similar amount of money for an HDMI converter box for my TV. OTOH, had I had HDMI inputs on my TV, I would just hook my laptop up and save the money for something else.

Re:Can't count GNU/Linux machines with Netflix (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 2 years ago | (#37364960)

Well, one thing you surely can't do is count GNU/Linux installations with Netflix.

This is what "Linux Counter" can be used for - to prove that there is enough demand in this market.

How do you prove true what's incorrect?

Where can I find their UI designer? (2)

TouchAndGo (1799300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37362548)

All I know is that the UI on the WD live tv recently changed to more closely match the travesty that they turned their webpage into, and whoever is designing their UIs needs a kick in the head.

Re:Where can I find their UI designer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37362816)

A world of yes! It's so ugly and useless now...

Re:Where can I find their UI designer? (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37363596)

Yep. PS3 is also the same Netflix pile of ugly, which is such a shame because the possibilities on that platform are nearly endless.

Then again, it does follow Netflix' business model - only make it usable enough to keep the customer subscribed, not to keep them using it. With a flat rate streaming subscription the more usable they make it, the smaller their profit margin...

Meh (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37362572)

I was impressed with it until I tried to use Netflix on my iPad and it crawled like a sloth in molasses. Recently, I browsed through the movie selection on my Xbox for the first time and a long while, and was blown away with how smooth and slick the user interface is.

Native, even using something like .Net, will always beat HTML.

customer focus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37363184)

Yay- great for them. When are they going to lower their DVD+Bluray package price to $9? I left when they took away streaming from the DVD package and didn't add on Bluray without the $2 surcharge. Blockbuster has both for the same price as just DVD's on Netflix, and then there is the fact that Bb gets many movies long before Netflix. I could care less about variable quality streaming that may or may not have full surround sound. I'm primarily interested in as close to theater quality in my home as possible and the streaming, whether it uses webkit or not, isn't sufficient to achieve that.

NetFlix sucks on iPads (2)

whitefox (16740) | more than 2 years ago | (#37363232)

Is this the same stack they use on their website? The same one that renders their website unusable on iPads?

Maybe same UI on all platforms not a good idea (2)

guanxi (216397) | more than 2 years ago | (#37363852)

Different platforms have different needs and capabilities. Why is the UI in my very limited Roku interface (with its very limted controller [gawkerassets.com] ) the same as the one on my very capable Windows laptop (i.e., on their website)?

Maybe it seems cost-effective (if you don't count user frustration), but the horizontal-scrolling UI works when it's controlled by hardware arrow keys (Roku), but it's much less than optimal on a webpage (Windows). And my Windows laptop can handle much more functionality than a Roku; too bad they removed all/most non-Roku functionality from the website.

In the slideshow, they acknowledge there are differences between platform UI needs, but they seem to try a one-size-fits all approach. Doesn't Netflix have the resources to develop multiple interfaces?

So that's why... (1)

shovas (1605685) | more than 2 years ago | (#37364002)

It's so slow on the Wii! I recently upgraded from an ancient installation on the wii and was surprised to find out it was less buggy but much slower. They must have gone from native code to web-based. Bleh.

WOW open standards! (1)

corvax (941506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37364094)

So it it uses webkit and all these open standards why cant i use netflix on my linux box?

Re:WOW open standards! (1)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 2 years ago | (#37366368)

So it it uses webkit and all these open standards why cant i use netflix on my linux box?

Because the studios said so.

Re:WOW open standards! (1)

NuShrike (561140) | more than 2 years ago | (#37369348)

re Linux, it's on all Android 2.2 and 2.3+. Closest you're going to get at this point.

Re:WOW open standards! (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37376922)

re Linux, it's on all Android 2.2 and 2.3+. Closest you're going to get at this point.

It's on SOME Android devices. Not all. Only the ones with some DRM mechanism on there.

Now, if you've got a rooted device, you can hack-install it on non-approved devices.

so basically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37364610)

they built a website
then for devices that don't have a browser, they deploy a browser along with it

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