If you stream content from services such as Netflix and Hulu, you may have seen a prompt to install Google Widevine. Depending on your device and browser, it may already be integrated by default. Either way, many users want to know exactly what it is and what it does. The good news is, it’s not a virus and it’s safe. It is also necessary to view some streaming content.
What is Google Widevine DRM?
Google Widevine is a digital rights management (DRM) service used to help protect online content from piracy. It is used by a wide variety of popular streaming services to prevent users from downloading or copying their TV shows and movies.
While some services support other types of DRM tools, some only support Widevine. It’s built into many Android devices and Chromium-based browsers, which means it’s already installed. You may be prompted to turn it on the first time you try to watch a streaming service that requires it. Otherwise, you will receive an error stating that the content cannot be read.
Widevine is required to watch streaming services like Netflix, Disney +, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and many more. Since the content is protected by Widevine, there is no other option.
The reason you need to install the tool is that the content protection processing occurs on the user’s device. This helps to prevent any exterior tampering.
One thing you should know about Google Widevine DRM is that it is not compatible with all devices. However, it’s such a reliable service from many big video content providers that you’ll find it compatible with most devices. Most Android devices released since 2017 are compatible, although some low-end devices may have issues. You can check the DRM support of your Android device by using the DRM Info application. Widevine is available for iOS 6.0 and above.
As mentioned earlier, Widevine is one of the Chromium based browsers. However, you may still be prompted to activate or install the extension. For example, I was prompted to install the extension when using Brave, which is Chromium-based, but focuses more on security.
Many smart TVs and streaming devices support Widevine to allow access to streaming apps. If an app is listed as supported by the device, Widevine is also integrated. There are also ways to view streaming services in Linux.
Video quality issues
If you notice that your device is limited to streaming only to a certain quality, it may be due to the level of security supported by your device. All devices supported by Google Widevine must support L1, L2, or L3 security, with L3 being the highest level of security.
To stream in Full HD quality, your device must be L3 certified. However, many are only certified L1, which is easier to achieve. The protections in place are not as good which is why streaming services do not allow these devices to deliver the best video quality.
Also, check your streaming app settings to make sure the Quality Score is not automatically set to a lower quality. For example, on Android, a streaming app can lower the quality when streaming over cellular data to help save on data usage. But you can change that if your device is L2 or L3 certified. DRM Info app shows you the security level of your Android device.
Adding or removing Google Widevine
For devices with Google Widevine integrated, it usually cannot be deleted. In fact, you might not even see it in the available apps or extensions.
If you have installed the extension or plug-in when prompted, open your browser settings and open the Extensions, add-ons or plugins section. Locate Widevine and remove or uninstall it. Depending on your browser or device, it may be called different things, such as Widevine CDM (Content Decryption Module) or Widevine Media Optimizer (usually when Widevine is both the protection and content player).
It can also be installed like any other application or program, especially on a desktop. You can uninstall Widevine the same way you uninstall any other software, for example by going to Add / Remove Programs in Windows.
If you need to install it, try viewing the content on a protected service. This prompts you to install Widevine. Or, you can search Widevine directly in your browser’s extension, add-on, or plugin store.
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