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[personal profile] giantsloth
Back when I was a full-time freelancer, I interviewed one of the founders of Netflix. It wasn't for a specific assignment; he was just passing through town and someone in press relations hooked us up. I got the spiel and was so convinced that I signed up for an account with my own money. It's possible that they comped me to begin with; I don't recall--but soon enough I was happily paying my own way, and have done so continuously for well over a decade now. But now the overall story, a cliche but a true one, is the Failed Promise of the Internet. Back when it was just DVDs in the mail, I could rent titles that would never end up in a local video rental place. I poured in a ton of ratings so that the mysterious Netflix engine would figure out my tastes, and would suggest movies I'd never heard of. So now, in a world where content streams in over the network, where the most obscure movies should be available instantly, what do I get? A dumber suggestion system, and a vastly reduced selection of movies. You can stream TWIN PEAKS, for example, but no movies directed by David Lynch are streamable from Netflix. Unless you've just got to have constant content coming down the network pipe, the overall technology of circa-2001 Netflix is superior to that of today. Which is a wordy preface to this opinion piece, worth reading, by Felix Salmon:

Netflix’s dumbed-down algorithms

And yeah, gas stations used to have smiling uniformed attendants, and jumbo jets used to have piano lounges. Progress.

Date: 2014-01-05 09:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ted chiang (from
But you can still get the DVDs, for the most part. While their streaming selection is patchy, Netflix's DVD selection is still pretty good. (I never used their recommendation engine, so I can't speak to that.)

Date: 2014-01-05 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When they first introduced streaming, I was ridiculed by my friends "wait, you get discs in the mail, and then have to mail them back, and what, WAIT for them?" Admittedly, the amount of time I have to watch television is small and three discs was usually enough to keep me busy -- after all, there are books to read! Years later, I'm still happy as a clam with my discs in the mail. Add Amazon Prime to that, and I now officially have way more good television/movie than I'll ever be able to watch.

I figured that eventually, I'd bow to the future and move from discs to streaming...but yeah, the upside to streaming is NOW. But yes, the reason why I love Netflix (the dinosaur side of their business) is the ability to hear of a movie recommended from someone else, or a movie I know I want to see in the future, and add it to my queue,which is 400 something long. I can bump up something I'm interested in, or let something I put on my list five years ago float to the top. The recommendations have helped me find a lot of great stuff I wouldn't have otherwise seen...but at 2-6 hours of television watching a week, even if the pool's gotten a little shallower on the disc side, still plenty.

It was GOING to work, until the studios decided to set up a bidding war on streaming rights and rather than differentiate on customer service like speed, recommendations and other content, now the various sources are competing based on what materials they have available to stream. As a consumer, that pisses me off. I'm already at the mercy of the third distributor when it comes to alcohol, limiting my choices and having a stranglehold on what's available to me in any given market. Now, entertainment as well.

(Welcome back!)


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