Netflix on iOS

There's something missing from most of the posts you'll find over the weekend after MacRumors discovered that Netflix had removed AirPlay support form its iOS apps. That those carrying iPhones and iPads would be forced to (gasp) use the native Netflix apps on Apple TV or smart TVs instead of using AirPlay.

What's missing? A sense of history, and irony.

First, the irony. Netflix is doing a couple things here. First is that it's taking control over its own experience. As it said in a statement to The Verge, "With AirPlay support rolling out to third-party devices, there isn't a way for us to distinguish between devices (what is an Apple TV vs. what isn't) or certify these experiences."

It's ironic as hell to see anyone who who lives and dies with Apple complain about a company taking a firm grasp over what can and can't work with its products. That's quintessential Apple. It's part of what makes Apple products great — and also at times infuriating.

Netflix's stated reason for removing AirPlay is thin, but the underlying reasoning is sound.

The sense of history requires us to go way back to the days of the Palm Pre, which played cat-and-mouse for what seemed like years with Apple. The Pre was able — for a time — to talk to iTunes using the somewhat-specious method of spoofing its identifier via the USB cable. That'd definitely not the sort of thing Apple had in mind, and it would "fix" the problem with a software update, only to see Palm "unfix" things again. It was only a matter of time until Apple shut things down for good, though.

And this hardly is the first time we've seen Netflix crack down on AirPlay-type streaming. It still doesn't allow you to use Chromecast to play back video on a Lenovo Smart Display, for instance. (And that's via Android or iPhone.) The why doesn't really matter — the simple fact is that you can't, and we won't be able to until Netflix wants us to be able to.

The other thing with this little to-do is that it really doesn't matter. Netflix has native apps on pretty much any ecosystem you can find. It's almost certainly going to be a better experience than using a phone or tablet to control things — and that goes for Android or iOS.

Why, then, does Netflix bother with Chromecast at all, when there are so many native apps available? Because of the inexpensive Chromecast dongles that have sold for years.

Apple doesn't have that. It doesn't have a $50 Apple TV dongle. It's got a $200 streaming box with an excellent Netflix experience unto itself. Netflix doesn't need to waste the time or the money (just kidding — those are the same things when it comes to coding) on AirPlay for an experience that it ultimately cannot control, be it from the Apple side of things, or the smart TV side of things, now that the likes of Samsung, LG, Vizio and more are getting support for AirPlay.

And I'm not buying the gnashed teeth from iMore's Rene Ritchie.

While most devices have Netflix either built-in or easily downloadable now, if you're visiting a friend or family member who has an Apple TV or TV set with AirPlay built-in, simply being able to stream from your account, without having to get them to subscribe or having to log yourself in, is way more convenient.

No, convenient is just finding what you want to watch, and then watching it. Just like you always would.

There's no real reason to log yourself in to someone else's Netflix app. (Unless, I guess, you just don't want them to see what it is you're watching.) Create a separate Netflix profile, perhaps, but even then that's not really necessary. It's not like you get different content whether you're signed in as yourself, or your friend.

Not bothering with AirPlay may be an unexpected move for Netflix, but it shouldn't lead to a degradated experience for Apple fans.

They're just not used to being the ones having a feature taken away from them.