Streaming on the job: Netflix Hangouts attempts, but fails, to mask video streams
by July 10, 2019

Filed under: Industry Insights, Performance Monitoring

Jealous that you’re missing out on the watercooler chatter surrounding Season 3 of Stranger Things? A new Chrome extension aims to have you covered.

Netflix Hangouts is the latest in a long line of programs designed to help workers leverage their office networks for less-than-business-critical activities. The program creates what looks like a standard four-person video conference — a communication tool that has become essential in the age of the distributed workforce — where three fake coworkers appear in the upper and left-hand boxes, while the bottom right streams the latest from a user’s Netflix account.

Netflix Hangouts in the office

While not a fool-proof method for avoiding work (after all, it’s not often that literal demogorgons make an appearance on your conference calls), it presents yet another challenge to enterprise IT who are tasked with managing network performance. For instance, we’ve discussed recently how streaming news and sports are prone to sap up large shares of total network capacity when workers flood these services. We’ve also highlighted in our 2019 State of Enterprise IT report that video services regularly take up the lionshare of network resources when ranked against other apps. 

But while workers may think this tool can overcome the barriers to unproductivity that the open-layout office puts in place, they may not be as covert as they think where network monitoring is involved.

netflix hangouts on appneta performance manager
AppNeta Performance Manager still recognizes that Netflix Video streams are leveraging network capacity when Netflix Hangouts is in use.

When tracking the underlying data that is visually masked by this Chrome extension on AppNeta Performance Manager, the stream still shows up as a Netflix Stream. So if it’s against office policy for workers to watch TV on the clock, enterprise IT will still be able to flag violators. 

While it’s not IT’s job to police the network or play Big Brother, this goes to show just what lengths workers may go to use network capacity that could be leveraged better elsewhere. It’s also important that all hours of the work day aren’t just about getting the job done, so blocking services like Netflix outright may not be necessary as long as employees can be trusted to hold themselves to task. But if enterprise teams using AppNeta to monitoring network performance notice a surge in Netflix traffic, this could be the culprit. 

To learn more about what AppNeta can help enterprise IT uncover, download our whitepaper, Four Dimensions of Network Performance Monitoring.