W3C Publishes Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) as a W3C Recommendation

Author(s) and publish date


Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) Brings Greater Interoperability, Better Privacy, Security, Accessibility and User Experience in Viewing Movies and TV on the Web

Read testimonials from W3C Members and Related Organizations

https://www.w3.org/ — 18 September 2017 — Furthering its goal to make the Web a first-class platform for media and entertainment, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) as a W3C Recommendation or Web standard. EME is an Application Programming Interface (API) that allows plugin-free playback of protected (encrypted) content in Web browsers, which works seamlessly on all major platforms. W3C's Media Source Extensions (MSE) provides the API for streaming video while its companion Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) provides the API for handling encrypted content. The combination of MSE and EME is the most common practice today that allows Web developers to stop using plugins to deliver commercial quality video over the Web.


illustration of movies on the Web showing a ticket


"EME is already widely adopted as a direct result of broad collaboration in W3C among major organizations such as Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Mozilla, Apple, CableLabs, Adobe, and has significant implementation across Web browsers." said Philippe Le Hégaret, W3C Project Lead.

The viewing experience of watching movies and TV shows on the Web has now moved from a cumbersome and possibly insecure arrangement to the security of the Open Web Platform. The integration of the EME API into the Open Web enables Web browsers to communicate with the software that allows playback of protected content.

User Benefits of EME

EME offers a better user experience, bringing greater interoperability, privacy, security and accessibility to viewing encrypted video on the Web.

"The EME specification has been developed with a focus on the security and privacy of the user. Compared to previous methods of viewing encrypted video on the Web, EME has the benefit that all interactions happen within the browser. EME moves the responsibility for interaction with encrypted video from plugins to the browser, which acts as a true user agent", continued Philippe Le Hégaret.

Keeping security interactions within the control of the browsers is a key aspect of EME. The EME Recommendation clearly calls attention to the importance of mitigating such security and privacy threats as network attacks, illicit tracking and the compromise of device-side user information. Thanks to wide review during the development of EME, all security and privacy requirements are now documented in distinct sections. Moreover, the EME specification provides a clear road-map of what implementers must do to enhance the security and privacy for the Web users.

Plugins have historically been used when features were not available in the Web. One by one the Open Web Platform implementations have been eliminating these plugins. Whilst some sites have already moved away from plug-ins to EME, the standard will have a positive effect on site migration. The Web has improved in such a way that installing plugins to play video is now a thing of the past. By moving all interactions into the browsers they are shielded from security vulnerabilities of plugins. By the same token, Web developers no longer have to use proprietary tools required by external plugins programming environments; they may now develop their Web Applications once and deploy on the Web.

While EME lets users have more control over how they interact with protected content, EME does not create, nor mandate Digital Rights Management (DRM). It doesn't mandate any particular Content Decryption Module (CDM) implementation either, but only ensures the Clear Key common key system is supported, providing browsers with a common baseline level of functionality. An advantage is that EME can be implemented in open source and free software browsers. Additionally, implementing EME, like all W3C Recommendations, is voluntary. Being an extension to the Open Web Platform, EME is not required for HTML compliance, and browsers have the choice not to implement it. In such case, a browser would have full capability to support unencrypted content.

EME improves the accessibility of encrypted online video, in contrast to existing mechanisms, by operating at a level that does not interfere with transmission or control of accessibility information. This is achieved by isolating the function of playing protected content, and by integrating it to the Open Web Platform. W3C standards development includes accessibility review to identify potential barriers to accessibility and new opportunities for accessibility support. W3C's analysis and testing of EME has shown no barriers to accessing captions, transcripts, or audio description of video. Applications conforming to EME ensure that accessibility information will be either transmitted in the clear; or, if encrypted, then decrypted along with the primary video file. All functionalities involved being provided by the HTML specification or some of its extensions, current and future accessibility enhancements of the Open Web Platform can be leveraged. (Read more about EME and Accessibility.)

Substantial interoperability of EME between browsers has been demonstrated as part of the development of the specification. Not only does EME ensure seamless playback of video content across many browsers, but it benefits from the excellent state-of-the-art model of the entire modern Web stack.

For more technical details on the specification as well as history, please read the Director's disposition of comments and decision on EME and EME Backgrounder.

The Debate about EME Becoming a W3C Recommendation

The decision to advance EME to W3C Recommendation was made by W3C Director Sir Tim Berners-Lee, following a six-year multistakeholder effort and extensive technical work and open discussions within the Web community.

"If you’re going to watch encrypted content it is safer in the browser where the security and privacy are provided rather than downloaded as an app." said Tim Berners-Lee. "A universal web must have content of all sorts: audio, video, text, interactive, maps and graphics. Some parts of the web are free and some are for pay. It’s understandable that certain producers incurring huge costs to produce their content are not prepared to release them without protections. If we are to have de-encryption, the advantage of EME is that unlike the typical historical DRM, the user is protected from attacks."

Though some have disagreed with W3C's decision to take EME to recommendation, the W3C determined that the hundreds of millions of users who want to watch videos on the Web, some of which have copyright protection requirements from their creators, should be able to do so safely and in a Web-friendly way. In a vote by Members of the W3C ending mid September, 108 supported the Director's decision to advance EME to W3C Recommendation that was appealed mid-July through the appeal process, while 57 opposed it and 20 abstained. Read about reflections on the EME debate, in a Blog post by W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe.

The use of streaming services has increased exponentially across the globe. Hundreds of millions of users currently benefit from EME in subscriber-based services like Netflix, and others that offer viewing of encrypted video content.

About the World Wide Web Consortium

The mission of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is to lead the Web to its full potential by creating technical standards and guidelines to ensure that the Web remains open, accessible, and interoperable for everyone around the globe. W3C standards HTML5 and CSS are the foundational technologies upon which all Web sites are built. For its work to make online videos more accessible with captions and subtitles, W3C received a 2016 Emmy Award.

W3C's vision for "One Web" brings together thousands of dedicated technologists representing more than 400 Member organizations and dozens of industry sectors. W3C is jointly hosted by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the United States, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France, Keio University in Japan and Beihang University in China. For more information see https://www.w3.org/.

End Press Release

Media Contact

Amy van der Hiel, W3C Media Relations Officer <w3t-pr@w3.org>
+1.617.253.5628 (US, Eastern Time)

Testimonials from W3C members

CableLabsConsumer Technology Association (CTA)Microsoft CorporationMotion Picture Association of America (MPAA)NBCUniversal (Comcast)NetflixRecording Industry Association of America (RIAA)


As a member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), CableLabs participated in the development of the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) recommendation – in collaboration with other major W3C member companies – to help further its goal of making the web a first-class platform for media and entertainment. EME was developed with user security as a major goal, while also focusing on improving user experiences and facilitating seamless communication between web browsers and software that allows playback of protected content. CableLabs is glad to see EME achieve the status of W3C recommendation.

Ralph Brown, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

The CTA WAVE Project congratulates the W3C for having published EME as a full W3C Recommendation.

CTA WAVE firmly believes in the importance of EME to the future of commercial video, an important contribution to the future of the web that enhances:

  • Interoperability—With EME, commercial video is encoded and encrypted using open standards that are supported by different browsers and decryption systems;
  • Accessibility—EME allows the media industry to deliver better and more interoperable accessibility features than was feasible with previous closed media delivery platforms;
  • Next generation media—EME will enable many small, specialized providers to deliver commercial media over the web, with the potential of transforming the entertainment industry while continually expanding the horizons of the web in the 21st century.

The first document from the WAVE Project, the Web Media API Snapshot 2017 specification, was recently released for review within the Web Media API Community Group, and more specifications and documents leveraging and citing the work of W3C and other groups will follow soon. The Web Media API Snapshot 2017 specification is built around the W3C standard HTML5 video architecture, including Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) when supporting encrypted video.

CTA WAVE looks forward to continued collaboration with W3C and other stakeholders to ensure the web remains a premiere platform for enabling communication and innovation.

The CTA WAVE Project is an initiative by many of the most influential names in video and audio, comprising manufacturers, distributors, service and infrastructure suppliers and over-the-top commercial internet video providers to identify requirements and guidance on the use of those specifications. More than 60 companies and 150 engineers are currently working on this effort.

CTA WAVE Project Steering Committee

Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft congratulates W3C on completing the Encrypted Media Extensions Recommendation, and thanks Sir Tim Berners-Lee for the hard work and leadership he provided to bring it to conclusion. This, along with the publication of the Media Source Extensions Recommendation, marks an important milestone on the journey to leverage HTML5 standards to allow full-featured media playback in browsers without plugins. By using HTML5, MSE, and EME, developers can add video features using just standard formats and APIs, and websites can count on browsers to deliver media without having to support 3rd party plugins. Users can be confident that their chosen media content is delivered in an accessible, secure and privacy-respecting way.

Jason Weber, Director of Program Management, Web Platform R&D

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)

Consumers today have access to more creative content across more digital platforms than ever before. In 2016, the American film and television industry released more than 700 movies and 400 scripted television shows. There are now over 130 lawful online sources for creative content in the United States and 470 sources globally.

The Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) specification published by W3C is a key building block for the secure and seamless delivery of this content to audiences around the world. EME advances a new generation of web-based content delivery with improved user functionality, security, and privacy. The MPAA appreciates the productive, collaborative work of the W3C and its many stakeholders on this important advancement to improve the consumer video experience.

Alex Deacon, Senior Vice President, Internet Technology

NBCUniversal (Comcast)

NBCUniversal is committed to bringing high-quality entertainment to viewers across the globe in a trusted, safe, and easy-to-use manner. We applaud the W3C's decision on EME, which will help provide reliable and safe access to the mechanisms used to access encrypted content, benefiting creators and users alike.

Michael Wise, CTO Universal Pictures


Integration of DRM into web browsers delivers improved performance, battery life, reliability, security and privacy to users watching their favorite TV shows and movies on Netflix and other video services. We can finally say goodbye to third-party plugins, making for a safer and more reliable web.

We believe this technology has been greatly improved at the W3C, where the world's experts on web technologies, web security, privacy and accessibility could all shape the outcome in an open process.

Mark Watson, Director, Streaming Standards

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

We congratulate W3C and its members for voting to publish EME as a W3C Recommendation. This is a victory for common sense - EME is already being deployed on the web and implemented by most browsers. It allows the web to function more seamlessly and efficiently while preserving the necessary safeguards. It will ensure the optimal video viewing experience. In short, the adoption of EME as a W3C Recommendation will give users more of a great thing, and will keep W3C at the forefront of innovation and web standards. We applaud Sir Tim Berners-Lee and thank him for his successful stewardship on this issue.

David Hughes, CTO, RIAA

ATSCIPTV Forum Japan


The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) congratulates W3C on the publication of the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). ATSC is completing a suite of ATSC 3.0 standards to enable the next generation of over-the-air terrestrial broadcasting and hybrid broadcast and broadband services.ATSC 3.0 standards are based on Internet Protocol and other web-based standards, including MPEG DASH and W3C HTML5, as well as EME. Our A/360 Security and Content Protection and A/344 Interactive Content standards both incorporate EME. The security and content protection capabilities made possible by EME provide important new opportunities for Broadcasters to deliver new services to the public.

Mark Richer, President, Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc.

IPTV Forum Japan

IPTV Forum Japan (IPTVFJ) sincerely congratulates that World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) as a W3C Recommendation.

Since December 2014, IPTVFJ has been publicly offering the “IPTVFJ STD-0013: Hybridcast Operational Guideline Version 2” standard which includes the technical specification for Video on Demand (VOD) services with HTML5-capable TV sets. EME is one of the key features in this standard.

IPTVFJ STD-0013 specifies the delivery method for audio-visual content based on MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) in detail. The method specified in this standard can be used for live streaming as well as VOD.

Various features such as accessibility and privacy protection are provided by the Web framework. IPTVFJ recognizes (1) EME should be used to handle content securely in the framework if needed and (2) thus EME allows to expand applicability of IPTVFJ STD-0013 as much as possible. It is the reason IPTVFJ adopted EME APIs promptly as the open standard to be used in IPTVFJ STD-0013. Now IPTVFJ STD-0013 is being deployed to the actual Integrated Broadcast-Broadband (IBB) services in Japan.

Jun Murai, Chief Director, IPTV Forum Japan

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