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Brave Widevine

  • I'm trying to play protected video content using Brave Android but sadly it was using Widevine and it doesn't play. It has 3 Levels of security, which decides what quality of content can be Dec 03, 2016 Google Chrome, the default browser on most Android devices for instance, ships with Google Widevine support.
  • From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Widevine is a proprietary digital rights management (DRM) technology from Google used by the Google Chrome and Firefox web browsers (and some derivatives), Android MediaDRM, Android TV, and other consumer electronics devices.

In what could be described as “unexpected request”, visitors of the popular e-commerce website may now be welcomed with a browser prompt to install an additional plugin.

Brave Uninstall Widevine

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Widevine provides a market-leading platform for delivering protected premium content at the highest possible quality and is studio-approved for 4K, UHD, HDR and more.

A visit to AliExpress is usually an uneventful experience: casually dropping by to check on the latest gizmos from China, be it colorful sunglasses or inexpensive electronic hardware, or perhaps that laptop that looks just like a MacBook but has twice the power, half the price and – crucially – a keyboard that doesn’t get jammed by pixie dust.

If you (like me) are experimenting with web browsers (specifically the Brave browser) you might have noticed something unusual since a few weeks: as soon as the home page is loaded, a prompt is asking permission to install a plugin.

While figuring it out for myself, I have found the same questions raised by other users on the web. So apparently the topic is worth a brief note, just in case someone is landing here, to provide a little insight.

What is Widevine? Widevine is a piece of DRM code (Digital Rights Management) used to protect digital media, such as video files, from copy and redistribution.

Why an e-commerce site like AliExpress would need DRM? My best guess is that AliExpress is using DRM to protect some of their website content. Namely, I reckon DRM is applied to video clips that are part of product description; there used to be only pictures, but now many product pages feature one or more short videos to illustrate how a product looks like in real life, e.g. worn by a model or in broad daylight. These clips can be expensive to produce when done professionally (as many of them are) and, if no anti-piracy countermeasures are taken, could be grabbed and illegally reused without permission (e.g. by competitor websites that are selling the same product), therefore representing an investment that requires content protection. Widevine fulfils this requirement.

Why is AliExpress using Widevine? Unlike other DRM solutions, Widevine does not bear client licensing costs. This means it’s cheaper for AliExpress to use.

Is it safe? Yes: Widevine is Google’s DRM (whereas for example Microsoft’s is PlayReady and Apple DRM is FairPlay) and it is safe to install. There are several criticisms focusing on how DRM in general may encumber fair use on top of inconveniencing legitimate users by restricting from exercising their legal rights but, from a computer security standpoint, installing Widevine is safe.

Why am I seeing this request? While adoption of DRM is a somewhat controversial technological choice, all modern browsers include a so-called CDM (Content Decryption Module) to support it. Well, almost all of them: Microsoft (IE11 and Edge) as well as Google (Chrome) immediately integrated the required components as soon as the underlying technology was mature for prime time, mostly to future-proof themselves supporting the rampant success of video streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu (which require DRM support). Other browsers (namely Mozilla Firefox) were initially reluctant to include DRM components but had to cave in, in order not to jeopardize their own existence by cutting themselves out of the very necessary video streaming market discussed above. If you are reading this, chances are you (like me) stumbled upon the popup request while running Brave, a browser which differs from others in some peculiar ways: notably, it ships without a DRM plugin because its designers have very strong feelings against the implications of digital content protection as well as forcing users to download closed source components (the Widevine plugin) from 3rd party servers (Google). Therefore, you have seen the request because Brave – unlike the vast majority of mainstream browsers – does not include a DRM plugin as part of its default installation; if you had visited AliExpress with any other browser, DRM would have silently kicked in and you would be none the wiser.

I chose to “Block” the installation and yet the next time it’s asking me again. Yes, this seems to be a side effect bug of Brave plugin management policy: your preference not to install is not saved anywhere, and so the request will come up over and over again every time you visit.

I would like to block Widevine on AliExpress but allow it elsewhere. Currently this is not supported, as Brave is handling the Widevine plugin in an “all or nothing” fashion: once installed, it will be available for all websites that make use of it; and there is no option to whitelist or blacklist it on a per-site basis. Brave developers are aware of this and it may change in the future.

Can I uninstall the Widevine plugin from Brave? Not today, you can’t. But in the future there may be an option to do so.

After 4 months of waiting, that is the response I got from Widevine, Google’s DRM for web browsers, regarding a license agreement. For the last 2 years I’ve been working on a web browser that now cannot be completed because Google, the creators of the open source browser Chrome, won’t allow DRM in an open source project.

The browser I’m building, called Metastream, is an Electron-based (Chromium derived), MIT-licensed browser hosted on GitHub. Its main feature is the ability to playback videos on the web, synchronized with other peers. Each client runs its own instance of the Metastream browser and transmits playback information to keep them in sync—no audio or video content is sent.

If someone is creating a browser that wants to playback media, they’ll soon discover the requirement of DRM for larger web media services such as Netflix and Hulu. There are a few DRM providers for the web including Widevine, PlayReady, and FairPlay.

As far as I’m aware, Widevine is the only available DRM for a Chromium-based browser, especially so for Electron. Chromium accounts for roughly 70% market share of all web browsers, soon to include Microsoft’s upcoming Edge browser rewrite. Waiting 4 months for a minimal response from a vendor with such a large percentage of the market is unacceptable.

Brave Widevine

This isn’t something I’m alone in either, several Electron users have waited months for a response. More prominently, the creators of Brave Browser also had issues waiting for replies from Google Widevine.

“This is a prime example for why free as in beer is not enough. Small share browsers are at the mercy of Google, and Google is stalling us for no communicated-to-us reason.”
- Brian Bondy, Co-founder & CTO of Brave

I’m now only left with two options regarding the fate of Metastream: stop development of a desktop browser version, or pivot my project to a browser extension with reduced features. The latter requiring publishing to the Google Chrome Web Store which would further entrench the project into a Google walled garden.

If you know of any way to help out, please get in touch.

Widevine Drm Remove

April 4th edit: No response from Google Widevine yet. Because a few folks asked, here is the full email exchange I had with Widevine. The initial response was received after getting in contact with another browser vendor to ping a Widevine contact they have. If you intend to inquire about a license agreement for your project, including the information they requested upfront could help.

Brave Widevine Content Decryption Module

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