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Networking Media Television

Hulu Munging HTML With JS To Protect Content 281

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the escalating-arms-race dept.
N!NJA writes "Hulu has started encoding the html that they send to people's browsers, and then decoding it using javascript before rendering it. [...] They then run the character stream through a series of javascript functions to convert it back into plain text before pushing it into your browser using DHTML. That's quite a lot of effort just for fun, so I assume that is to stop screen scrapers from parsing content." I really can't understand all this effort. Boxee displayed the Hulu advertising perfectly. I suspect Alec Baldwin is to blame.
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Hulu Munging HTML With JS To Protect Content

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  • by antibryce (124264) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:22AM (#27429063)

    they're aliens. that's how they roll.

    • by punkmanandy (592682) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:30AM (#27429179) Journal
      They are doing this to confuse, to better mush our brains.
    • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:27AM (#27429943) Homepage

      Sadly their marketing is so clever and hilarious I think it's making many of us forgive their stupid actions with regard to boxee and such.

      I mean, come on. They're ALIENS.

  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:24AM (#27429093)
    It sounds like there's something ROT-13 in the state of Hawaii.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:25AM (#27429107)

    ...ended at midday yesterday. Though I have to admit that this is far funnier than the "stories" that Slashdot ran at the time.

  • Cat & Mouse. (Score:5, Informative)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:27AM (#27429145)

    The XBMC guys already made a plugin [lifehacker.com] after the last hulu change. It'll take a few hours and a new one will be made.

    Especially if you SEND the user all the info they need, how hard is it to decode functions? There are crackers out there that take decoded assembly to figure out how to bypass DRM, what makes Hulu think their implementation will be any more difficult?

    • by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:29AM (#27429163) Journal

      a marketing major or MBA course. that's what makes them think it'll be more dificult.

      • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by koterica (981373) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:54AM (#27429473) Journal
        This is modded as funny, but it is rather insightful. The people who make business decisions (or what they think are business decisions) don't necessarily understand the things they are messing with. In this case, they obfuscate because they are worried about people pirating content.

        Honestly? Hulu is a great service (if you live in the US) but its not a high priority target for piracy. Why go to the effort of ripping a stream with ads in it when the torrent is already out?
        • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:5, Informative)

          by tweek (18111) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:16AM (#27429767) Homepage Journal

          It has nothing to do with piracy. It has to do with revenue from cable company contracts. The problem the "content providers" had was that via Boxee and other set-top pcs, people could forgo cable all-together and that would be a huge chunk of lost revenue. Hulu is popular but the ad revenue from Hulu is nothing compared to the money the cable companies pay "content providers".

          * I quote "content providers" because Hulu liked to use that phrase when Boxee was shut out. The fact of the matter is that Hulu is co-owned by two of these "content providers" so in essence, Hulu *IS* the "content provider"

          • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MoonBuggy (611105) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @11:01AM (#27430481) Journal

            The fact of the matter is that Hulu is co-owned by two of these "content providers" so in essence, Hulu *IS* the "content provider"

            I'd be interested to know where the division lies, actually. Their blog posts when Boxee was cut off had a distinctly irritable tone - they were very much making their point that the content providers don't understand the new marketplace they're operating in; basically, they were saying of the content providers the exact same thing most of the posts on this story are saying of them.

            To me, that means they're autonomous to a reasonable degree but the studios have the final say. I would guess that the Hulu team themselves made all the relevant points about how this obfuscation won't work, and were overruled - just because their company is owned by the studios, doesn't mean the employees working there share the same ideas.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Patch86 (1465427)

              Alternatively, they may know that the obfuscation won't work, but may not care.

              As an advertising-driven service, all they care about are site hits and views. It's not really in their interest to limit their service in any way, and not in their interest to bolster DVD sales.

              Their content providers, however, care lots about piracy. They're probably laying on the pressure to make the Hulu boys tougher on piracy. And as noted, they're probably all advertising graduates.

              By doing this, Hulu might just be doing so

      • Trust me, Marketing Majors and MBAs do make everything harder...
        • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by fprintf (82740) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:09AM (#27429653) Journal

          No, trust me, the freakin' programmers and IT people make it impossible. All us MBAs want to do is output a freakin graph, and you put us through all kinds of process steps, and gates and usability testing, and then decide it will cost $1Million just to make a simple change. No wonder nothing gets done without a multi million dollar budget.

          • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by thesolo (131008) * <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @11:28AM (#27430967) Homepage

            No, trust me, the freakin' programmers and IT people make it impossible.

            Riiiiiight.

            Sorry, but you're wrong. Honestly, we just want to get the code written and have you leave us alone. But we can't do that.

            Instead, we have to follow the rules implemented by management, usually non-IT management. So while the code change itself might be all of 10 minutes, we have to follow Six Sigma, or have all changes go through 3 weeks of requirements gathering, or have to follow some horrible process workflow like the Waterfall model because they read about it in CEO Magazine.

            It's management who make your life more difficult. And oddly enough, almost all of them have MBAs...

            • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @11:48AM (#27431383)

              A month, a friggin month to unplug from a 100mb switch port and plug into a 1gb switch port.

              5 minute change if you include the exhaustive checks, and double checks, and tripple checks to make sure there is not a problem.

              Change Management at its finest!

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Zordak (123132)

              True story: I worked for a government contractor in 1999. Our customer maintained an old DOS program that talked to little boxes on military aircraft. The program had a Y2K issue that the customer wanted fixed, so he issued a contract to us (sole source, of course). The budget was somewhere between $500k and $750k. The timeline was about 9 months, including writing documents justifying why the fix was needed, documents about what the fix would fix, documents about how we would fix it, documents about h

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by cayenne8 (626475)
                "As far as I know, my code was never deployed on a single computer."

                Hey...as long as you got paid.

          • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @11:38AM (#27431165)

            True story...

            Three separate estimates for a project have determined that making a change will take about 1400 to 2800 hours. These were swag by a analyst with 8 years experience with the application, a formal 40 hour estimate by a different analyst with 9 years experience with the application, and an outside estimate by a contracting house (who wink/wink made it clear the 1400 hour estimate was really them lowering their billing rate to get some work- they would be working 20 hours a week unpaid to make the 1400 hour estimate).

            The CIO came in and said "I don't see how this can be so hard", drew some boxes on a whiteboard as the "high level design" and said, "this should take 400 hours". (This was after the three estimates kept disagreeing with her wishes)

            And *every* VP and senior director in the room, nodded in agreement and didn't say a god damned thing.

            One of the ways planned to meet this goal is to assume testing will find no defects and take one week less than normal. That's just one -- there were more.

            In the current environment- IT people are seeing some really bizarre behavior by the business types (I have friends at three other companies that report similar experiences).

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by hondo77 (324058)

              Me: I estimate this will take four months.

              Director of IT (former sysadmin): This should only take four weeks.

              Want to guess who got blamed when the project took four months?

            • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Yold (473518) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:07PM (#27434851)

              I don't think the CIO's lack of understanding is caused by her being a "business type". Fact is, unless you've been knee-deep in the code for the system in question, you probably have a very skewed understanding of the time requirements.

              Case in point, a client of mine was a PhD/MD. Definitely a nerd, not a business type. He has programming skills, yet he expects me to be able to accomplish 20+ hours of coding in an hour. He simply doesn't understand the amount of thinking, experimentation, design, coding and testing involved for modern web-apps.

              More relevant case in point, my boss has a PhD in computer science. About 10 years ago, he was a programmer just like me, but now he runs big-numbers for the business types. He has been nagging me about current project to be done, because back when he was a web developer, everything was server-side CGI. No CSS prettiness to worry about, limited cross-browser issues, and there was no cluster-fuck codebase to wrestle with. If he gave 2-shits about being a better manager, he'd ask "what sort of problems are you having/expecting", rather than "is it done yet?", and then telling me to hurry up to create bug-free code (pfffft what an oxymoron).

              Fact is, every manager I have ever had in a technical position has been woefully out-of-touch with the nitty-gritty of their subordinate's work. Whether or not that person had substantial computer/technical background is irrelevant, because they don't understand the specifics of the system/project in question.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Sleepy (4551)

            I can't tell if you are kidding or not, but if you think programming is easy, feel free to try it on your lunch break.

            FYI - programmers don't require usability testing. I think you have programmers confused with your CUSTOMERS (or your Program Manager). They DO require pesky documentation. Most programmers have the urge to dive in and code without planning.

    • by schmidt349 (690948) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:30AM (#27429171)

      Shut up! That's why.

    • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by v1 (525388) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:34AM (#27429217) Homepage Journal

      It's probably more targeting people like me. I've already considered writing an app to scrape the pages, and download ALL their movies to a large hard drive or two.

      I'm sure it's on a lot of other people's minds too with similar skills.

      I do that from time to time for web archives of images too. Curse that 1000 hit limit on images.google.com!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)

        Isn't it nice knowing that we evolved from rats?

        Do you really believe that all of this content is going to get less available over time? Note that this would essentially contradict all of history.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Do you really believe that all of this content is going to get less available over time?

          What about if your internet goes out and there's jack-crap on TV? Oh look, a HDD full of episodes/movies/whatever. Or.. well this one doesn't apply in this case, as Hulu is US only, but for people with low bandwidth/download quotas, streaming is a total waste. Hell, if I was to stream something, I'd nab a copy of it, just so I didn't feel I was wasting my quota.

        • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Zebedeu (739988) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:34AM (#27430033)

          Do you really believe that all of this content is going to get less available over time? Note that this would essentially contradict all of history.

          Yeah, don't bother making copies of those documents at the Great Library of Alexandria.

          • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:4, Informative)

            by Idiomatick (976696) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:56AM (#27430391)
            The documents in Alexandria WERE copies. The reason the library was so great was that when people came to port the librarians would copy travelers' stuff. I think it would be kind of impressive if the riaa drmed some of their stuff and protected it so well that it dissapeared entirely... like top secret documents in the us gov.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by illumin8 (148082)

          Do you really believe that all of this content is going to get less available over time? Note that this would essentially contradict all of history.

          Actually, yes. Because Hulu is controlled by content owners, who seem to want to create tons of content and then keep honest viewers from ever watching it (see Fox scheduling sci-fi shows during the worst possible time slots), there have already been a lot of cases of Hulu removing content. The show It's Always Sunny in PA was pulled from Hulu by the content o

      • Re:Cat & Mouse. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jnetsurfer (637137) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:51AM (#27429419) Homepage Journal
        Even still, if they're using javascript to decode the HTML, they're not really protecting themselves. Your app can just run their javascript and still work perfectly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Foolicious (895952)

        I do that from time to time for PORN too. Curse that 1000 hit limit on images.google.com!

        There you go. Fixed that for you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pionzypher (886253)
      They've already worked around it.

      In the OP link: 2.6.7: Changed Hulu code to deal with their new encoding of web pages. Note, this slows it down a fair bit, so UK-only users are advised to do a custom install to turn off US.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:01AM (#27429535)

      If you do decrypt it without authorization, they can claim you're in violation. It's not about the technical merits of their solution, it's about the legal aspect.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TooMuchToDo (882796)
        What about the DCMA provision allowing decryption/circumvention to provide interoperability?
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @01:21PM (#27433061)

      The XBMC guys already made a plugin [lifehacker.com] after the last hulu change. It'll take a few hours and a new one will be made.

      Those slowpokes, I've already configured my videocamera to record my computer screen, the plugin took only 30 seconds (and the only reason it took that long is because I didn't have a flashlight and it was dark under my desk.)

      Not only that, but I bet their version won't encode to high-quality VHS tape format.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I mean, the alternative here is to use torrents. Why would Hulu (or their corporate overlords) want to make it difficult to use Hulu, when it's already just as easy to download the show and play it in whatever media center thingamajig I want with no ads?

    • by NeoSkandranon (515696) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:34AM (#27429203)

      They *want* you to go back to watching regular TV, where the ad revenue is greatest.

      • by causality (777677) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:44AM (#27429323)

        They *want* you to go back to watching regular TV, where the ad revenue is greatest.

        As you probably know, that cat's not going back into the bag. I wonder whether the inability to admit this and work with it is a special trait of media companies or if it's just true of large organizations in general?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        CPM is higher on Hulu than it is on the TV because users are "more engaged" on the PC than they are on the TV. The two potential problems with pushing Hulu to the TV screen are:
        1) Advertisers are paying a premium for engagment that they aren't getting.
        2) It will eat into they biggest customers' (cable,satellite, etc) revenue who, I am reliably told, are putting a lot of pressure on Hulu to pull the plug on boxee.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MoonBuggy (611105)

        It's a shame, actually, that they had a flash of insight and then let it drop. They finally realised that they only way to compete with free, high-quality content from torrents was to offer free, high-quality content for themselves - the radical thinking (compared to other big media companies, at least) was that while it may not earn as much as broadcasting on TV, it's preferable to earning nothing from torrent downloads.

        Now set-top PCs and services like Boxee start to appear and gain a bit of mainstream at

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zippthorne (748122)

          With set-top PCs and lots of bandwidth, the distribution and billing problem is solved. We don't need advertising supported television any more.

          Let's be generous while discussing:

          on iTunes, you can get an episode of Scrubs for $3. That's less than 22 minutes of show; You'd watch 8 minutes of ads for three dollars worth of entertainment, so in essence they're paying you $21.82 / hour to watch ads.

          But it gets worse.

          Suppose you buy in bulk, and you get longer shows?

          A season pass for LOST on iTunes is $50, fo

  • Dumb question here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:29AM (#27429167) Homepage

    Couldn't an enterprising screen-scraper also just run it through the same Javascript code? Hulu is forgetting what I like to call the Fundamental Law of DRM: if you make data possible for users to see /hear, it will be possible for a reasonably enterprising user to copy it.

    • by ynef (995695) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:51AM (#27429423)
      Yes, in fact, HtmlUnit [sourceforge.net] is my preferred browser simulation library in Java for this very reason: it allows you to write very easy to understand Java code, and it uses Rhino [mozilla.org] as a JavaScript interpreter. Completely brilliant, and yet few people know about it.
    • by Applekid (993327) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:52AM (#27429425)

      Couldn't an enterprising screen-scraper also just run it through the same Javascript code? Hulu is forgetting what I like to call the Fundamental Law of DRM: if you make data possible for users to see /hear, it will be possible for a reasonably enterprising user to copy it.

      Sure. Except, crappy as the Javascript "encryption" is, now you're in violation of the DMCA by reverse engineering a copy protection mechanism.

      • by nobodylocalhost (1343981) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:58AM (#27429505)

        only if the decoder is american though.

      • by jnetsurfer (637137) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:59AM (#27429511) Homepage Journal
        But you're not reverse engineering. They're sending you their code, you're just running it!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by illumin8 (148082)

          But you're not reverse engineering. They're sending you their code, you're just running it!

          Actually I wonder if the DMCA would apply here. I think in fact it might. A non-techie judge might decide that running their javascript code on any device that they don't intend you to run it on is a violation of the reverse engineering clause.

          Clearly, the content owners (Hulu) intend for you to only watch their content on a web browser running on Windows, Mac, or Linux. By running their javascript on a 3rd party d

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by swilver (617741)

        No, you just run their javascript, the way it was intended to be. There's no reverse engineering involved. If they were smart (Hulu), they'd send different decoding function each time making it not possible to just recreate their function... if doing any of this can be considered smart.

    • by causality (777677) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:52AM (#27429429)

      Couldn't an enterprising screen-scraper also just run it through the same Javascript code? Hulu is forgetting what I like to call the Fundamental Law of DRM: if you make data possible for users to see /hear, it will be possible for a reasonably enterprising user to copy it.

      I think you left some of that Fundamental Law unstated. This is an approximation of the full version:

      If you make data possible for users to see/hear, it will be possible for a reasonably enterprising user to copy it. Only one such user is needed to make a DRM-free (and ad-free) version available via BitTorrent. Meanwhile, you stand to annoy all of your legitimate/paying/ad-watching users, especially if they understand this Fundamental Law and/or your assumption of bad faith.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        I guess I included searching The Pirate Bay and the like as a step a reasonably enterprising user would take to circumvent DRM. But yes, it's true that all it takes is one to figure out how to break it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mdm-adph (1030332)

      Yes. To me, this is just like those JavaScript "password" scripts people used to make, and about as ignorant to the way client-side code works.

      I almost want to say some web designer sold this "security" to Hulu as a joke.

  • Phase One is Over (Score:5, Informative)

    by wonkavader (605434) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:29AM (#27429169)

    TunerFreeMCE couldn't scrape the data. Mission accomplished. Oh, wait... Tada:

    "Update- version 2.6.7 is now available to download to work round this new tactic."

    And now, I supposed, there will be a DMCA attack as phase two.

    • Re:Phase One is Over (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:39AM (#27429261) Homepage

      And now, I supposed, there will be a DMCA attack as phase two.

      That's really interesting. According to Wikipedia: "The DMCA criminalizes the circumvention of access control".

      Can obfuscated HTML & JavaScript really be considered access control?? I sure hope not.

      If it is, then what's the difference between obfuscated code and horribly written code thats difficult to understand? Or code thats been run through a minifier to make it smaller?

  • by g0es (614709) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:32AM (#27429189)
    I'm all for boxee, but if they wanted aggregates to link to their content I would think hulu would have provided an API to allow it. Maybe instead of trying to work around every change hulu makes they should work with them instead.
    • by russotto (537200) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:36AM (#27429237) Journal

      I'm all for boxee, but if they wanted aggregates to link to their content I would think hulu would have provided an API to allow it. Maybe instead of trying to work around every change hulu makes they should work with them instead.

      Hulu wants nothing to do with them and would rather they go away. They want to be able to release this stuff, but control it at the same time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by christurkel (520220)
        They want you to watch Hulu on your computer, not on your television.
    • by FauxPasIII (75900) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:39AM (#27429267)

      > if they wanted aggregates to link to their content I would think hulu would have provided an API to allow it.

      They did. It's called the hypertext transfer protocol.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:01AM (#27429529)

        Absolutely.

        It's been cute these last 10 years watching companies try to put things on the Internet and monopolize the information they put up. If you don't require user authentication, it's public.

        If you want to piggy back in a web browser, with a public protocol like HTTP, expect people to interact with your server in unintended ways.

        The only way to prevent this is to invent your own propietary protocol, and your own client. And even this doesn't prevent reverse-engineering of the protocol to gain access.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Well they did. It is called HTML. Boxee in this case is just another type of browser.
      What I find odd is Hulu has no problem with me watching it with a browser. For some reason they see a difference between a Monitor and an HDTV. It is odd since my PC has an HDMI out.
      What scares them to death is that people might/are dropping cable and watching over the net now.
      My wife is toying with the idea but Iron Chief Japan and Football keep her from making the jump.

  • Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by AlterRNow (1215236) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:35AM (#27429219)

    My father gave me some HTML that was decoded with Javascript. To get the raw HTML was pretty simple IIRC..

    1) Load page in Firefox
    2) Open DOM explorer/inspector
    3) Export as HTML
    4) ???
    5) PROFIT!!

    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:00AM (#27429521) Homepage Journal

      The particular situation here deals with compressed/encoded HTML in an effort to prevent screen-scraping. This leaves two options for screen scrapers:

      Option 1
      1) Figure out how the decoder works
      2) Replicate the decoder functionality in the screen scraper
      3) Parse the decoded HTML
      4) Make changes as the encoding scheme changes
      5) ???
      6) Profit!

      Option 2
      1) Link a Javascript engine like SpiderMonkey, Rhino, V8, or SquirrelFish into the screen scraper
      2) Run the Javascript to decode the HTML
      3) Parse the decoded HTML
      4) ???
      5) Profit!

  • by Prototerm (762512) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:38AM (#27429255)

    As long as Hulu continues to work with a Linux-based browser, I'm happy. This is unlike ABC, whose system doesn't support Linux at all.

    Their loss (or perhaps I should say "They're Lost").

  • by Papabryd (592535) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:39AM (#27429263) Homepage

    ...On a TV. Where ad rights, restrictions, and most importantly prices are much different than they are on the web. Hulu's (well really Fox/NBC's) bean counters won't let that fly especially when they can get roughly 7 minutes of ad space on a broadcasted show versus 2 minutes on Hulu. I'd be willing to bet that the prices for those 2 minutes on Hulu are a lot cheaper than 2 minutes on TV for an equivalent show.

    And to anyone complaining about having to dance through proxies to watch Hulu internationally, it's for the same reasons. What benefit does Charmin see from advertising toilet paper to people in the Netherlands?

    All that aside, as someone who has a modded XBOX with XBMC and was living abroad,I can say with experience that all these shenanigans are tiring. Like any arms race where it's content producers vs. the internet, the internet will win in the end.

    • by russotto (537200) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:55AM (#27429475) Journal

      These guys do understand that nothing prevents me from plugging my laptop into a TV and running a browser on it? And nothing prevents me from plugging a tuner card into my computer and showing TV on the monitor? So regardless of what they do, they can't make something show on a computer but not on a TV?

      Wait a minute, my assistant is handing me an envelope he says will explain everything.

      (envelope opening noises)

      The note inside says "They're total idiots".

      Yep, that does explain everything.

    • by MrMarket (983874) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:13AM (#27429727) Journal

      And to anyone complaining about having to dance through proxies to watch Hulu internationally, it's for the same reasons. What benefit does Charmin see from advertising toilet paper to people in the Netherlands?

      This is where the MBA and Marketing guys are falling down on the job. They should be selling regional ads for international viewers... instead of Charmin, they could sell Nokia ads for Dutch viewers, Weetabix in the UK, and Nutella in Italy, etc...

    • Like any arms race where it's content producers vs. the internet, the internet will win in the end.

      Don't be so sure. The Internet exists as it is largely because there still are dumb pipes. The day that the dumb pipes are replaced with smart pipes is the day the internet will have become TV.

  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:40AM (#27429279) Journal
    Maybe they are just doing this to sate the content providers. As long as they appear to be trying to solve the problem, they should get brownie points with the major companies. Considering how popular DRM seems to be with the execs, I'll bet they think this works just as "well".
    • by maxume (22995) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:46AM (#27429361)

      Hulu is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Fox Entertainment Group. The Hulu management might not precisely be content providers, but the folks holding the purse are.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RyoShin (610051)

        Bingo. Services like Hulu have to serve two masters, and there's a constant juggle to make sure the content providers are happy in their diluted little world, while ensuring that the "honest" users can still access content with no problem. Considering alternative offerings, Hulu is still aces, far above anything else on the internet, even things like Youtube.

        Likely, someone at NBC/Fox went "YEEEAARRRRGGG PIRATES" and some intern at Hulu said "Well, we can do X, bu-" "DO IT NOW." And so it will go.

  • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:41AM (#27429283) Homepage

    Make the viewer fill it in every ~2 minutes to keep watching.

  • by Coopjust (872796) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:49AM (#27429385)
    Hulu is owned by Fox/NBC, and they are trying to attract other content providers.

    Simply put, the ad revenue on Hulu is much, much less than on TV. Sure, it beats piracy (a little money and control over how long your content is on there) but if people were to cancel cable or watch Hulu on their Xboxes more, both cable/satellite providers and the content providers themselves would be unhappy.

    Just another game of cat & mouse: Hulu makes changes, and Boxee updates. The hope is that if you make the workarounds unreliable enough to the point where people are too irritated, most will switch back to TV, with a few using Hulu just online on their computers and a few turning back to piracy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sricetx (806767)
      Sure, it beats piracy (a little money and control over how long your content is on there) but if people were to cancel cable or watch Hulu on their Xboxes more, both cable/satellite providers and the content providers themselves would be unhappy.

      I already watch Hulu on my xbox 360 and I don't have cable. I run MediaMall's Playon server in a Virtualbox Windows XP image on my Linux machine and it works fine. I can watch cbs.com, Netflix instant viewing content, Youtube videos and a lot of other content
  • Why all the effort to apply DRM to free streaming content? Is it just because the networks think that everything needs to have DRM?
  • Just More Proof... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blueZhift (652272) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:52AM (#27429445) Homepage Journal
    This is just more proof that the people who run the big media companies not only do not understand technology, but cannot be bothered to learn it either. If they did, they would realize that DRM is ultimately a futile effort because the end user has to have everything they need in order to decode the content. That means that someone who wants to decode the content to display it in some other unapproved manner, also has everything they need to do it. I'll assume that the technical people/aliens at Hulu know this too and are only doing what the content providers are demanding.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is just more proof that the people who run the big media companies not only do not understand technology, but cannot be bothered to learn it either.

      There is an old saying: "It is impossible to teach a man something, when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it."

      They make their money the old way. If they learn this new way, they realize that their old way is doomed. Thereforefore, they cannot learn the new way.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:56AM (#27429491) Homepage

    "I really can't understand all this effort. Boxee displayed the Hulu advertising perfectly. I suspect Alec Baldwin is to blame. "

    I used to wonder why you cannot mod a Slashdot editor's comment "Funny", but now I see that it would be an unused feature ;-)

  • by nweaver (113078) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:00AM (#27429523) Homepage

    Hulu is a BRAND. It wants to live in its own world and be exclusive.

    So their attitude is "Frak Boxie", as boxie is trying to DESTROY the brand of all the video sites to be replaced by the Boxee brand.

    Why should Hulu play nice?

    • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:15AM (#27429753)

      They are being knuckleheads. Their "website" is analogous to a traditional TV channel and Boxee is analogous to a set-top cable box. You'd still get the Hulu ads, still get the Hulu branding.

      To be fair, it seems like Hulu would very much like to be on Boxee - the distaste of the content providers' policies is palpable on their blog.

  • by c (8461)

    Now that they're actually applying some form of DRM to the system, maybe they think they can hit Boxee up with a DMCA-based injunction.

    I know, I know, it's a weak argument technically, but it's not like that's ever stopped the lawyers before.

    c.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:07AM (#27429615) Journal

    Won't this also prevent things like Phorm from modifying the ads? A screen scraper can just embed something like Gecko or WebKit and generate the DOM tree with the scripts, but something that needs to sit on a connection and do realtime packet modification like Phorm can't do that.

    Since Hulu doesn't work outside the USA, I've never used it so I don't know if which is more likely, but if I had an ad-supported web site I wouldn't want carriers modifying my data in-flight, and this approach is a lot less computationally-expensive on the server side than using SSL without dedicated hardware.

  • Fail (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chlorine Trifluoride (1517149) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:15AM (#27429755)
    This is not actually the worst web DRM. I once found a site where the top of the code had a comment that said "Source code not available" followed by a bunch of blank lines. In order to get the source, one just had to scroll down some.

    Which, of course, would make the scroll bar an anti-circumvention device.
  • Could someone explain what they're doing in a bit more of layman's terms? And then also, what the point of doing all of that is?
  • ...and you'll never have to worry about *how* the content gets on the page. Make the browser do it just like you would by hand, and scrape the content after it's all rendered. Encrypted, generated by javascript, whatever.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A couple years ago I was on a project building a web site that used asynch calls to web services to get JSON strings and then render DHTML from the resulting objects. The requirement came down that we needed to "encrypt" the data being returned by the seb services. They understood that it would only be obfuscation because the code to "decrypt" the strings would be right there in the JS for anybody to see, but it's what they wanted.

    Instead of trying to encrypt it, I chose to compress it. The resulting st

  • by Digital_Quartz (75366) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @12:23PM (#27432023) Homepage

    This is probably to stop Lynx browsers from properly displaying content. I'm betting this move was backed by bribe money. Clearly this is aimed at reducing compatibility with Lynx. MS is just trying to steal away market share.

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