How to Stream Netflix on a Mac
By David Weedmark
Watching Netflix on a Mac couldn't be any easier, since the streaming video service phased out its reliance on the Microsoft Silverlight browser plugin. All you need is a Netflix account, a high-speed Internet connection and the time to watch your favorite shows and movies. Netflix automatically detects your Internet speed and streams its videos in the best quality your bandwidth and browser can handle. On modern Mac computers, Safari supports the best resolution: up to 1080p when streaming Netflix on OS X Yosemite.
Safari streams Netflix on any Mac computer with OS X 10.10 Yosemite or later using HTML5, without the need for any plugins or additional software. This includes any Mac computer produced in 2012 or later, as well as some 2011 models, provided you have upgraded to the free Yosemite operating system.
For high-definition video, you need a high-speed Internet connection with download speeds of at least 5 megabits per second.
Google Chrome Requirements
Google Chrome version 37 or later supports streaming Netflix videos using HTML5. This means if you have upgraded to the most recent version of Chrome available on any Mac using OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 or later, you can start streaming without needing extra software. Chrome supports HD video up to 720p with an Internet connection of 5 megabits per second or faster.
Older Macs with Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.11 or later running Google Chrome version 3 or later don't support HTML5 streaming for Netflix. Netflix will prompt you to download the Microsoft Silverlight plugin when you first try to play a video.
Mozilla Firefox Requirements
For anyone who loves Mozilla Firefox, unless you want to try using Safari or Chrome for your Netflix sessions, you need to install Microsoft Silverlight. As of February 2015, Mozilla won't support the HTML5 Encrypted Media Extensions that Netflix requires.
According to PCWorld, Netflix uses these extensions to download a closed-source plugin that restricts subscribers from recording content. Although Mozilla has plans to release a modified version of these extensions, in their current form they violate Mozilla's policies on digital rights management, or DRM.
Until that happens, when you try to play a Netflix video on Firefox, the browser will give you instructions for installing the Silverlight plugin, a small 14.5MB file that takes just a minute or two to install.
The first time you go to Netflix.com on your Mac, you are prompted to sign in. If you have never used Netflix before, click the "Sign Up Now" link at the bottom of the Sign In box. Otherwise, enter your Netflix account email address and password. You can also log in with Facebook, provided you have linked Netflix to your Facebook account. You do need a credit card to start a Netflix account, but the first month is free. Scroll through the recommended videos or use the Search option to find a specific title, actor or director. When you find a video you want to watch press the "Play" button and the video starts playing immediately.
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.