Goodbye, Netflix Profiles?
June 19, 2008 4:45 AM   Subscribe

In a world where one company single-handedly created the online DVD rental industry, what happens when they turn against their own customers? Netflix has announced the cancellation of its Profiles feature. This means no more separate rental queues for different people in a household. Since the announcement, it took less than 24 hours for SaveNetflixProfiles.com to launch, bloggers are furious, and the real hardcore fans are absolutely livid. Who will triumph, and who will break?
posted by Faint of Butt (125 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I never knew this feature existed and now I want to use it and am preemptively pissed that I won't be able to . . .
posted by jeremias at 4:53 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah. I'm kind of annoyed that they decided to drop it, too. But can anyone point to an online petition that actually worked?
posted by Dave Faris at 4:57 AM on June 19, 2008


W.T.F. What earthly reason...

What a bunch of morons. I've already noticed they've been slowing down their turnaround time, but this is just ridiculous. I am not going to spend hours carefully interleaving the DVDs my family wants to rent.
posted by DU at 4:58 AM on June 19, 2008


This really pisses me off. Each person in our house has a profile, and I am NOT looking forward to trying to organize three profiles into one big list and placing each item in the list so that everyone has one movie at once.

Is there at least going to be an option to import one's profile into the main account? I only have 20 movies in my queue, but I can only imagine someone with thousands of movies having to reinput all of them into a main account.
posted by Lucinda at 5:01 AM on June 19, 2008


I've been thinking about dropping my own profile anyway, because I don't have the time to watch all these movies. Having to climb a barrier to keep it will certainly cause me to drop. But maybe this online petition...

6 Total Signatures

See ya, Netflix.
posted by DU at 5:04 AM on June 19, 2008


This sucks. I hope this at least means two different accounts will be able to have the same physical address now. In fact I wonder if that's what's behind this: three "two at a time" plans cost more than one "six at a time" plan. It's also irritating that there doesn't appear to be a good alternative to use for a bit of leverage: Greencine never buys enough copies of anything and the mailing times are ridiculous if you're not in California. Blockbuster and the other mainstream organizations don't have the catalog depth.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:08 AM on June 19, 2008


Bloggers are furious!
posted by Citizen Premier at 5:10 AM on June 19, 2008 [10 favorites]


This will keep me from signing up. My gf and I are way too different to maintain ONE queueueue.
posted by Eideteker at 5:20 AM on June 19, 2008


What is their "legitimate" reason for doing this? Seems like bad timing on their part. In the middle of an economic slowdown, one of the first things to go is "cancelling cable" and it Netflix is even more superfluous than that.
posted by mattbucher at 5:21 AM on June 19, 2008


Despite the fact that they give it a silver to Netflix's gold, Blockbuster only seems to lack downloadable movies, which doesn't work on Mac or Linux anyway. Of course, this is some no-name review. And it doesn't mention profiles at all.
posted by DU at 5:21 AM on June 19, 2008


In a world... where money rules... this Summer... one company... is finding out... that heroes come... in all sizes...
I Am Furious (Blogger)
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:22 AM on June 19, 2008 [12 favorites]


They'll bring it back and call it Netflix classic.
posted by srboisvert at 5:33 AM on June 19, 2008


I'm a bit curious what this is all about but I'm not a NetFlixer...

Does this mean that in a family of 5 people, you could have 5 discs out at once?
And did this cost less or the same as 1 account? 5 different accounts?
Why couldn't you just have 5 different accounts?
Tell me what I'm missing.
posted by vacapinta at 5:35 AM on June 19, 2008


Not much.
posted by Science! at 5:38 AM on June 19, 2008


vacapinta: The feature at stake allows you to have several queues on one account. Each gets a specified allotment of the DVDs in your plan. For families it's great because you can put parental controls on your kids' queues.

But it's also good for couples, because most peoples' significant others have terrible taste in movies and always hog the queue.
posted by (parenthetic me) at 5:40 AM on June 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


Does this mean that in a family of 5 people, you could have 5 discs out at once?

Not exactly. Netflix accounts can have some number of discs out at the same time based on how much you pay per month. What profiles let you do is manage each rental queue separately. In my case, we have a 3 disc plan and have allocated them each to a different profile. One for each of me and my wife and one for the kids together.

The reason this is nice is easy to see if you imagine not having it. One big queue with everyone's stuff in there means you have to interleave your items so that everybody gets what they want at the right time. And not just ABCABCABCABC but something crazy like ABCABACABBC or whatever, because each person watches at a different speed.

On top of that, each profile can get recommendations based on Netflix's matching algorithm. It isn't a blindingly awesome algorithm, but at least it is generally on target. If my likes are glommed together with the kids giving the Smurfs 154 stars, the recs are useless.

Imagine it this way: Your ISP just told you that your whole family has to share one email address.
posted by DU at 5:43 AM on June 19, 2008 [20 favorites]


I just can't watch three new movies in a row! I need TV shows to break it up. First two discs of Dexter and some movie I added to the queue months ago and forgot about? Amazing! What crummy news.

Actually, now that I think about it, I've had [some multiple of seven] Up at home for at least 3 weeks now. While in the same stretch of time we blew through 1.5 seasons of Battlestar. Maybe they're tired of people forgetting about certain discs.
posted by giraffe at 5:44 AM on June 19, 2008


6 Total Signatures

Less than an hour later, IT'S ALREADY UP TO 15!!!
posted by mkultra at 5:44 AM on June 19, 2008


Like jeremias, I never knew this feature existed either.

We all furtively play "reordering the queue" in our family, so that at least one of us screams "you rotten bastard" when the new Netflix envelope is opened.

(I honestly thought everyone did this!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:46 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I hear there's this great alternative called "The Pirate Bay". Might want to check it out.

But seriously, rentals are so last century!
posted by delmoi at 5:55 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Imagine it this way: Your ISP just told you that your whole family has to share one email address.

That sums up the shittyness of this situation perfectly.
posted by hojoki at 5:56 AM on June 19, 2008


I hear there's this great alternative called "The Pirate Bay".

I just realized that myself a few minutes ago. That used to not work well for me, because even if I don't mind, my wife (and certainly my kids) aren't going to want to cozy up in front of a computer monitor at a cramped, litter-strewn desk.

But I have a DVD burner now!
posted by DU at 5:58 AM on June 19, 2008


I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I recently canceled my Netflix membership because I just wasn't watching any of their movies. I had it for about a year until I had pretty much seen everything that I wanted/needed to see. After that, I switched to the 2 movies per month plan, and I still had a disc of MST3K kicking around my house for two months before I got around to watching it.
posted by Avenger at 5:59 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I was..uh.. between jobs some months ago the '4 out' plan was terrific so I had a fast rate of return which enabled me to watch upwards of 20 films per month but now I'm lucky if I have time to watch 4 per month so I dropped the plan down to 2 out. Still, I'll miss the profiles feature. It's never a good sign when a company starts taking shit away from their customers unless they're offering something better.
posted by hojoki at 6:07 AM on June 19, 2008


Company X takes action to maximize profits. This upsets people who liked things better as they were.

News at 11.

(Until we disabuse ourselves of the idea that the goal of company is to make money, we will never get passed this.)
posted by oddman at 6:11 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Geez, if this is causing such ruckus then people simply watch too much television.
Put down the remotes people!
posted by a3matrix at 6:12 AM on June 19, 2008


And our mice too, right?
posted by hojoki at 6:13 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Company X takes shortsighted action to temporarily maximize profits, they hope.

FTFY

It is absolutely, 100% guaranteed that some other rental company will offer this feature, if they aren't already doing so. There is almost zero cost, besides the opportunity cost of opening another account, and the feature is so. damn. useful. That other company will get all these furiously blogging former flixers.
posted by DU at 6:15 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


So...the only three reasons I can think of for this are:
a) it's because they're going to start charging people to use this feature in the future.
b) it's because there's some fundamental database issue that this feature causes that's preventing them from implementing their million-dollar improved recommendations system.
c) Research shows that people don't want flexible, common-sense web apps.

My initial findings, (and these are really only based on preliminary statistics) are that IT'S TOTALLY A!!!!
posted by Jofus at 6:16 AM on June 19, 2008


Geez, if this is causing such ruckus then people simply watch too much television.

I don't know about you, but I work 9 hour days and spend 3 hours each day commuting. What am I supposed to do when I get home? Run a marathon? 'Cause I'm pretty sure you can't do that in two hours of free time.

People who complain about television need to tell me what their hobbies are so I can figure out how to make more productive use of my time. Is it spewing out unproductive, judgmental comments? 'Cause I think I just learned how to do that right now.
posted by giraffe at 6:23 AM on June 19, 2008 [17 favorites]


from the livid bloggers link:


How will this impact my account? On September 1, 2008:

# All DVDs currently at home or in transit will be associated with the main account Queue
# All Profiles rental history will be added into the main account rental history
# Your additional Profile Queues will be eliminated. If you would like to keep a copy of each Profile Queue we recommend that you print them out
# Prior to Profiles going away, we will also email you a copy of your Profile Queues
# Profiles movie ratings and Profiles Friends connections will no longer be available
# You will not be able to transfer your Profiles data to a separate new account
# You will be able to set a maturity filter on the main account


So the rental history can be moved over but the queue contents cannot? I can see some privacy concerns there. This really seems like a bad move all around...
posted by butterstick at 6:26 AM on June 19, 2008


This isn't just a tick-off-the-customers feature, it's also incredibly short-sighted in light of one of their own stated goals - data mining. Average a bunch of people together and you get a homogeneous gruel of tastes, but you could actually start marketing things besides the latest Lindsay Lohan flick at people once you recognize, "Oh, these are for the kids - Dad likes technothrillers and spy movies, Mom has a taste for old horror flicks."

Isn't one of the supposed benefits of various companies invading our privacy for commercial gain that we get at least individually tailored consumerism shoved at us?
posted by adipocere at 6:35 AM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Netflix kinda sucks lately. Longer shipping times, tighter bottlenecks for receiving. At least they have a working customer service phone number now. They needed that.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:43 AM on June 19, 2008


Netflix claims this is a "final decision"; I suppose we'll see what happens. I'm hoping that the reaction makes them come to their senses, but if not, the only real option for me is going to be to switch to another service. Netflix is useless to my household without queues.
posted by tocts at 6:50 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


They don't give details as to why this is going away, but I would guess it was probably the result of a cost-benefit analysis. Despite the "furious" blogosphere and the millions thousands hundreds dozens of people angrily filling out internet petitions, it may just be the case that there aren't enough people who use the feature to make it worth supporting.

From a resource standpoint, every profile is a separate queue; it consumes database resources, analytical resources, bandwidth, and so on.

My guess is that Netflix looked at the benefit it provided, the number of customers actually using the feature, what it was costing them in resources, and decided it wasn't worth it. Hardly the crime against humanity as which it is being characterized.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:51 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


By discontinuing the feature, we will be able to put more focus and resources site and service improvements that benefit everyone, consistent to how we have grown the service over the years.

...but we will continue to tax your system resources by having popups on every site you visit... Yeah right. Thanks, twats.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:53 AM on June 19, 2008


It's one thing for a company to raise prices, or charge for features that used to be free. It makes us whine and bitch, and then get over it.

But to drop a feature that's really key for people, without any good reason, with no recourse and no way to faux-recreate it? That's just hostility to some of your most loyal customers, and it's absolutely insane - especially for a company that (in theory) prides itself on customer service.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:58 AM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


If it's the case that not enough people are using it, then it's due to lack of promotion. I have had Netflix for over 5 years and have no idea how long profiles has been around, but would have liked to know.

This has upper-management lame-o decision written all over it, I feel sorry for the copywriter who had to word this:

Manager: "Write something up telling people we're removing the Profiles feature."

Drone: "Um. Ok. What should I say the reason is?"

Manager: "Well it's really because of 'x', but we can't say that, so just put some generic language in about newly improved features coming soon."

Drone: " Such as?"

Manager: "Jesus Christ! Do I have to do your job for you? Just write it already, make it sound good, isn't that what you do."

Drone: "Oh. Right. That's . . .what I do . .."
posted by jeremias at 7:10 AM on June 19, 2008


bloggers are furious

Bloggers lose their temper so regularly, this could get tacked on to any Mefi story. In fact, it should happen automatically. Let's try it now:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The Abridged Script [probably contains spoilers]. Bloggers are furious.

code_swarm, an animated visualization of open source software project commits. e.g.: Python. Bloggers are furious.

Slangin' Liquor in the Hood From the site: A look into the everyday dealings of a 34 year old liquor store owner and his crew in the "hood." Gangs, trailer parks, alcoholics, methheads, crack heads (yeah they still exist)....I read somewhere that this profession makes the top 5 regularly among the most dangerous jobs. But me, I ain't scurred. Bloggers are furious.

R.I.P., Arizona Parking Solutions. Guy parks car without displaying his pass. APS boots car. Guy dollies car into his garage and invites APS to reclaim their boots. Or not; their choice: either way, they can't tow, he won't pay the fine, and he really doesn't need to be driving the car. This catch-22 upsets the owner. And eventually APS goes off the deep end, booting nearly everyone's car in the community. The media becomes involved. And we become witness to a business owner suiciding his own business. Bloggers are furious.

posted by outlier at 7:14 AM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


That's just hostility to some of your most loyal customers

That's the Netflix business model. Their "best" customers aren't the most loyal, because the most loyal customers watch a lot of movies, and that costs them a lot of money. Their best customers are the ones who get their first 3 movies and promptly let them sit on their desk for 6 months. It's the same reason they started to delay shipping if you're prompt about sending back movies. A good customer is a bad customer to Netflix.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:17 AM on June 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


I'm sad to see this go, but I really wonder where people are claiming to get lesser service. For me, I drop a disc in the mail, it arrives at Netflix next day, and they send it out, arriving in my mailbox next day. 2 day turn around, the absolute fastest I could hope for with US Mail. Sometimes the disc sits in my bag at work and I drop it in the afternoon mail, and it takes 3 days.

I think the folks with the slow turn-around time have beef with their local US Mail, not Netflix. Then again, it's possible that the Netflix mail center in New England is just much better than other parts of the country.

I'll miss profiles, but I change my mind enough about what I feel like watching next that I don't think it'll affect me too much. Then again, 95% of my Netflix rentals are watched with my fiancee, so for us it was a TV/movies profile split, not a "his/hers" split.
posted by explosion at 7:18 AM on June 19, 2008


I'm guessing it might have something to do with their latest on-demand service venture: 'Netflix's new set-top box is a couch potato's delight.'
posted by trueluk at 7:23 AM on June 19, 2008


I think the folks with the slow turn-around time have beef with their local US Mail, not Netflix.

How long you been a customer? This is my third go-round here in NYC, and I am certain that the problem is not with the US Mail. My movies arrive and send out in 1 day for about 6 months, at which point movies at the top of my list become unavailable (and I highly doubt there are that many other people wanting to see disc 2 of the 1st season of "Boy Meets World"), and movies are sent out the day after a disc is received.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:24 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Their "best" customers aren't the most loyal, because the most loyal customers watch a lot of movies, and that costs them a lot of money.

Actually, their best customer is me: I get movies and let them sit around, costing them nothing. Meanwhile when people tell me they have Blockbuster accounts (or worse, physical video store accounts) I scoff at the poor selection and feature set.

At least, that's what I used to do. Now, if Netflix is lucky, I won't say anything at all.

I think the folks with the slow turn-around time have beef with their local US Mail, not Netflix.

Netflix has publicly acknowledged throttling. Also, when my wife "innocently" asked them if they could possibly be doing such a thing, they didn't answer but the turnaround on our account suddenly improved for about 18 months.
posted by DU at 7:29 AM on June 19, 2008


For couples, it's a little bit of a pain. For households with kids, it's a huge bummer that this is going away.

The profiles were actually the reason we signed back up with NetFlix, as the last time, we were sick of waiting for our movie while the kid rewatched "The Saddle Club" pilot for the 8th time.

There's also the possibility that, since the profile queues worked badly with the "Play it Now" feature and that's where they see their future (no mailing costs, etc.), that there are no more profiles.
posted by Gucky at 7:32 AM on June 19, 2008


I was actually planning to upgrade our plan (we're on "unlimited" one-at-a-time, which is really more like "don't try for more than four a month"), as our kid will be at movie-watching age before too long, and it'd be nice to have a separate queue for him.

So much for that plan.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:45 AM on June 19, 2008


My movies arrive and send out in 1 day for about 6 months, at which point movies at the top of my list become unavailable...

Come to think of it, this happened while I was in the middle of Band of Brothers (series becomes unavailable and drops into "saved" section). But only that one time in a couple of years.

I've had quick turnaround in both Los Angeles and Boston, and the LA postal service is pretty danged terrible. So I guess I do believe this is a viable theory.
posted by giraffe at 8:00 AM on June 19, 2008


Just a wild guess here, but I'd say it's probably because some programmer claimed that it was "impossible" for there to be individual queues with some bullshit feature that management wanted. Since none of management knows anything about where anything is "impossible" or not, the customer gets screwed.
posted by betaray at 8:04 AM on June 19, 2008


Well, Netflix seems like more and more of a hassle now that we've started getting RedBoxes in our neighborhood. $1 a night, return before 9pm, in all the grocery stores we shop, and you can return it to any other Redbox.

One door closes, another opens, Netflix.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:07 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised how many people have trouble with delays. I'm in LA, get a lot of movies through Netflix, and am usually stunned at the speed with which they receive/send out the movies in my queue. Sometimes it's so fast that I wonder how it's physically possible, actually.
posted by OolooKitty at 8:07 AM on June 19, 2008


Oh. That's going to seriously fuck some stuff up for me, I can tell you.
posted by Artw at 8:12 AM on June 19, 2008


I've never had an availability problem per se, but they do throttle like crazy. The last two discs of season 1 of "The Wire" have had to ship in from Georgia, which is sort of suspicious, but the obvious one was a sharp dip in turnaround time when we were averaging 5-6 movies or more a month on our plan. Suddenly it was taking longer for films to get back to them, and they weren't sending ship notification emails until the next day, sometimes. Then we'd have a round of movies sitting on the table for two weeks, and suddenly turnaround time would improve.

I'm fine with capping the max number of movies per month. I understand you need to make money. But don't call it an unlimited plan. Tell me I get four a month, I'm a big boy. That's worth ten bucks and not having to deal with Blockbuster.

Just a wild guess here, but I'd say it's probably because some programmer claimed that it was "impossible" for there to be individual queues with some bullshit feature that management wanted.

I'd take that bet. "Some programmer?" No.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:13 AM on June 19, 2008


So are they going to increase the size of the queues then? The reason I have two profiles is because I maxed out my first queue. (And why are queues limited in any case?)
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:14 AM on June 19, 2008


(And why are queues limited in any case?)

My (totally out of my ass) guess is that this is an overhead issue. Limit the growth rate of your database by putting a hard cap on how many records each customer can have for their queue. If that's the reasoning, then it's probably also why they're doing away with Profiles. Somebody in management wanted a quick-and-dirty way of keeping costs locked down as the customer base grows, and this was the obvious choice.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:19 AM on June 19, 2008


$1 a night, return before 9pm, in all the grocery stores we shop

The future was in 1988!
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on June 19, 2008


DVD rental services now have "real hardcore fans"? I learned something today.
posted by nowonmai at 8:48 AM on June 19, 2008


Well, Netflix seems like more and more of a hassle now that we've started getting RedBoxes in our neighborhood. $1 a night, return before 9pm, in all the grocery stores we shop, and you can return it to any other Redbox.

Redbox is fine for new releases. When you go through a "gee, I have all these classic movies I want to see before I die" phase, it's not.
posted by Lucinda at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2008


I've been a loyal Netflix customer for over 4 years now, and this is the first thing that's really made me consider canceling my account. I could understand taking away profiles if they had something newer and better to replace it with, but as of right now they don't. It would also be less annoying if they had some functionality to help us merge our two profiles into one.

Instead, they remove what I find to be a very useful feature, and then put the burder on me to manually merge the lists. Netflix could have handled this a whole lot better, and I wouldn't be surprised if they lose customers because of it.
posted by geeky at 8:58 AM on June 19, 2008


Citizen Premier: "Bloggers are furious!"

No no no no no. If you're going to do this, you need to do it like this:

Metafilter: Bloggers are furious!
posted by WCityMike at 9:04 AM on June 19, 2008


I got the message yesterday, and ported over my "television show" profile into my real one. Pain in the ass, but not awful, considering you can add a whole season at once.

What ticked me off most was the disingenuousness of the "reasoning" they provided, "to continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers."

In other words, we're going to improve your experience with our company by taking away from your experience with our company.

Please. I'm used to corporations fucking the consumer, but let's not go to the audacious extreme of saying that it's not a fucking but a banana sundae.
posted by WCityMike at 9:10 AM on June 19, 2008


From the furious bloggers link:
I use profiles to manage different types of movies and because I like to keep more than 500 movies in my list. This is going to be a big inconvenience.

And that's your answer if you're asking why Netflix did this. They've got a limited number of customers, paying the same as all the others but essentially using the Profiles feature to take up as much database space as 5 to 10 customers. Each one has its own queue, history, ratings, etc. that is tracked, just as if each Profile were a paying customer, but they aren't charged as much as they would be if they had an account for each profile. This is the same basic reason that cable companies want to throttle bandwidth: A few people using an excessive amount slows it down for everyone else. Who are you going to piss off? The small number of people overusing the feature, or the large number of people that don't use it but are impacted by the reduction in available resources?

Netflix obviously assumes that the people who really, really need this feature will just open a second account. Instead of having one for the family with lots of disks out at a time, I imagine people will move to the cheaper plans, with fewer disks, but sign up for more than one plan (two per month plan for parents, one at a time unlimited plan for kids, or something like that).

This is a cost-saving move. That's all.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:10 AM on June 19, 2008


I don't know about you, but I work 9 hour days and spend 3 hours each day commuting. What am I supposed to do when I get home?

Damn, that sucks. You have my sympathies. I would suggest a bit of excersize when you get home. You don't need to do a marathon, but a bit of outside time, elevated heart rate, would probably do some good.

Living in a house with no kids and only my wife to contest the remote, there is very little conflict over the tv. If she wants to watch something I find deplorable (dancing with the stars, gag!) I retreat to mantown where there is a gaming computer full of tantalizing zoomies and another computer that conveniently has a tv tuner card in it but lacks the digital tuner the tv has upstairs hence less channels.
I can see how the loss of this service might play hell at my brothers house though. That poor bastard.
posted by a3matrix at 9:16 AM on June 19, 2008


Has a notification gone out on this? I’m guessing it’s either sitting in spam or it want to my wife, who’s the primary account holder. Anyway, now I’ve heard about it I think I might need to drop Netflix, not so much because I’m a petulant change resistant consumer than because in practical terms it flat out isn’t going to work for us: We both tend to get obscure old stuff and let it sit on the shelf for a while, and this works out in part for us because we have separate profiles and neither of us can “block” the other. We put them both on the same queue and we’re going to get grumpy because we don’t get any new movies because the other persons DVDs are sitting on a shelf unwatched.
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on June 19, 2008


(DVD turnover has crawled to a halt since the kid anyway, so maybe it’s just time)
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on June 19, 2008


delmoi writes "I hear there's this great alternative called 'The Pirate Bay'. Might want to check it out."

BT is really hit or miss for old or obscure titles.
posted by Mitheral at 9:29 AM on June 19, 2008


Damn, that sucks. You have my sympathies. I would suggest a bit of excersize when you get home. You don't need to do a marathon, but a bit of outside time, elevated heart rate, would probably do some good.

I think the point here is simply that Netflix is a superior alternative to network television, and that at least some people don't want to bother with BitTorrent and piracy, etc. Your initial comments of "stop watching TV" just really aren't welcome in this sort of thread any more than "smoking is bad for you" would be in a tobacco/smoking thread.

Besides, she didn't even mention whether she exercises or not. For all you know, her commute could include an hour of walking. Your assumption of "TV watcher = fat slob" is one of the reasons why people generally loathe anti-TV zealots.
posted by explosion at 9:35 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


BT is really hit or miss for old or obscure titles.

So is Netflixh, IME. I still haven't been able to find Planet Mechanics in either place.
posted by DU at 9:37 AM on June 19, 2008


This is a cost-saving move. That's all.

Perhaps. And, speaking as a software developer, I would not want to be the Netflix DBA. But it's a bad move. I currently have 3 movies, my g/f has two, and we happily manage our separate queues. I'll have to fold her movies back into my queue come August or September, and then keep managing it (which will really complicate my zombie movies, dammit). What burns about it is that they're not adding some other feature to kind of compensate, they're just ripping out one of the more useful functions of their site. They're just removing a feature. This is terrible marketing, plain and simple.
posted by graymouser at 9:37 AM on June 19, 2008


There's a simple answer. Call Netflix. Cancel your account. Explain why.

If enough people do this, profiles will be back before next Friday. If they don't, then they won't. If they change the terms of services in a way you do not like, and you continue to use the services, you are implicitly agreeing with them.

Fundamentally, a company speaks exactly one language. Money. Make a serious threat to that source, and they'll listen. Otherwise, they won't.

It may be that 3% of the customer base was using profiles, and the resource cost was closer to 20%. In which case, now you know why Netflix cut it. If that's not true, though, you have a chance.

But if you keep giving them money, why should they listen to your complaints. YOU ARE STILL PAYING THEM! They get the money, just like before.
posted by eriko at 9:42 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't want to work for Netflix full stoop right now. This is clearly going to be a pain in the ass in all kinds of different ways.
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2008


speaking as a software developer, I would not want to be the Netflix DBA.

?

seems like starting for the A's to me . . .
posted by tachikaze at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2008


I never used the profiles feature (the one time I tried, my boyfriend managed to get ALL of his movies on his profile and I got none, which meant I had to watch a bunch of crap boy movies because I probably didn't know how to work the profiles in the first place). But I can totally see why people are angry at this, especially those people who have kids.

However, I've never had a problem with any sort of delay. I've been a Netflix customer for 4 years and I've always had a very fast turnaround.

My only beef with Netflix is that I can't watch the instant movies because I have a Mac. I kind of feel that I'm paying the same amount of money as a PC user who can watch like 80 gajillion movies instantly and it annoys me. Netflix should either hop on the ball for Mac users or they should let you opt-out of the instant-watching and pay a few bucks less a month.
posted by kerning at 9:50 AM on June 19, 2008


They've got a limited number of customers, paying the same as all the others but essentially using the Profiles feature to take up as much database space as 5 to 10 customers.

There is no conceivable way that that's enough to drive them to cut out a feature as substantial as that... seriously, that's a difference of what, a couple of thousand rows per user, with each row taking up four fields and 20 bytes of disk space? Across the entire customer base, that might be the difference between adding or not adding another DB node to the cluster, and they're going to choose this as their place to make a stand about cost-cutting moves? If that's the case, they deserve every lost customer they end up with...
posted by Mayor West at 9:51 AM on June 19, 2008


Yeah... the fact that their online movie service only works with IE is pretty telling about the caliber and deep-thinking abilities of their programming and marketing strategists.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:52 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Netflix obviously assumes that the people who really, really need this feature will just open a second account.

Last I checked (a couple years ago), you can't open two accounts with the same physical address. Maybe they've changed that.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:52 AM on June 19, 2008


This will keep me from signing up. My gf and I are way too different to maintain ONE queueueue.

I love it. When in doubt, just keep adding ue's.
posted by kingbenny at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2008


Re: instant watching on the Mac. It's not about "the caliber and deep-thinking abilities of their programming and marketing strategists". It's a DRM issue and Netflix would very much like to "hop on the ball for Mac users". From the "system not compatible" page:

"Our goal is for Netflix members to enjoy movies and TV shows on whatever screen they want. We're required to use Digital Rights Management to protect movies watched instantly online, and right now we only have approval for this protection on Windows Operating systems, not the Mac.

"Apple does not license their DRM solution to third parties, which has made this more difficult, but we are working with the studios and content owners to gain approval for other solutions. As soon as a studio-approved DRM for the Mac is available to us, whether from Apple or another source, we will move quickly to provide a movie viewer that enables you to watch movies from Netflix instantly on your Mac."
posted by Dean King at 9:58 AM on June 19, 2008


caution live frogs writes "They've got a limited number of customers, paying the same as all the others but essentially using the Profiles feature to take up as much database space as 5 to 10 customers. Each one has its own queue, history, ratings, etc. that is tracked, just as if each Profile were a paying customer, but they aren't charged as much as they would be if they had an account for each profile. This is the same basic reason that cable companies want to throttle bandwidth: A few people using an excessive amount slows it down for everyone else. Who are you going to piss off? The small number of people overusing the feature, or the large number of people that don't use it but are impacted by the reduction in available resources?"

Even in that extreme case what is the monthly marginal cost of a few thousand DB records? A few cents? It would definitely be swamped by a single movie round trip. And that seems to be the goal to me. By introducing friction in the queue system they reduce the number of titles they ship out without, officially, reducing service levels.
posted by Mitheral at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2008


Perhaps. And, speaking as a software developer, I would not want to be the Netflix DBA. But it's a bad move.

There have got to be other ways to solve this problem for Netflix without axing profiles entirely. Like tell your customers, okay, we're keeping profiles, but we've got an 80/20 situation here, so we're going to limit how much you hardcore users can game the system. Starting in September, you can have either 2 profiles or the number of discs you have out at once on your plan, whichever is higher. However, there's a catch: The queue limit is now per account, not per profile, so you must share your queue limit among those profiles. To make nice, we'll slightly raise that cap for all our subscribers.

That would require some overhaul to their code, and it will still piss off Mr. 500-per-month, but it doesn't kill a major feature that many of their subscribers need to have to make their account workable in their household.

Maybe they've changed that.

Not as of last summer.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:00 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I actually don't use profiles ever because that way, only I get to determine which DVDs come and when. If the kids get one and hold on to it for too long, that just means the other two discs are applied to my feverish The Wire addiction. And my wife rarely suggests any movies, because I think she forgets. More for me again. I often re-order my queue, but do sometimes forget (which is why Dreamgirls shows up as a surprise and is then back in the mail the next day. Why was that even in my queue? I think I assumed my wife wanted to see it, but she did not.)

I also have no problem with turnaround time (Boston area). Availibility can sometimes be a problem, but an e-mail generally speeds things up and they ship from Salt Lake City or some other far flung Netflix outpost. And they have been great customer service wise if there is a bad disc or lost disc. Never a question, they just send out the next DVD in the queue.
posted by genefinder at 10:06 AM on June 19, 2008


It's not about "the caliber and deep-thinking abilities of their programming and marketing strategists". It's a DRM issue

Oh, I don't know. If I were running a company like Netflix, and it were my intention of serving up movies to my customers, I would probably come up with a plug-in that all of my customers could use that would also solve the DRM issues. Instead, they used an off-the-shelf solution that only satisfies a fraction of their customers.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:07 AM on June 19, 2008


They have no control. The lawyers for the IP holders say "Thou shall use Foo DRM" and if Foo is only available from MS for MS platforms their boned. The IP holders don't think they need NetFlix, while NetFlix needs the IP. They are bargaining from a position of weakness and MS is very good at the leveraging a monopoly game.
posted by Mitheral at 10:13 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead, they used an off-the-shelf solution that only satisfies a fraction of their customers.

The vast majority of web users still, in defiance of all sense, use IE. Using an off-the-shelf solution that will cost them less than internal development and maintenance, get deployed quicker, and satisfy 90% of their customer base while they figure out what to do with Mac and *nix customers makes a heck of a lot of business sense.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:15 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Then in that case, I would rethink offering the service. A product that provides something to a fraction of my client base while simultaneously irritates the rest is probably not a product I want to offer.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2008


On preview, if what you say is true, and my opinion is skewed because I am a member of the 10% who is pissed off about it, then I'll withdraw the complaint. I can tell you from the referrer information on all the sites I run that IE definitely does not make up 90% of the traffic.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:18 AM on June 19, 2008


I can tell you from the referrer information on all the sites I run that IE definitely does not make up 90% of the traffic.

I'm sure that's true, but I'm not sure that Netflix's user base shares your user demographics, and I'm also not sure that those users of yours who don't use IE to go to your sites also don't possess it. I'm a diehard FF user, occasionally mess around with Safari and Opera, but I'm also a WinXP user (as are most computer owners -- that 90% figure I pulled out of my ass is a guess on what their home desktop market share is), so I've got IE if I need it. If I want to watch a Netflix movie online, I fire up IE. I don't like it, but it's not a big enough problem for me that I want to cancel the service.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:25 AM on June 19, 2008


Nor is it for me. It's an annoyance, and an indication to me that the programmers and marketers at Netflix don't seem to be making the wisest decisions -- like canceling the multiple queues on individual accounts, for example.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:28 AM on June 19, 2008


ThePinkSuperhero almost certainly has it. In order to earn more money they need to send less movies out per subscription and eliminating profiles is one method of doing so. Personally, I'd be willing to pay for this kind of plan:

X movies, Y at a time.

So I can say "hey, "I'll pay you $100 if I can watch 100 movies (or however much they deem profitable) and I'd like to be able to have 3 movies at any given time."

Maybe someone else says "I'll pay $25 for 20 movies and I'll have 1 out at a time"

And so on. Infinately customizable. But Netflix probably won't go for it because then I will never 'waste' my subscription. But I'd like the option though to do this and I'd probably even pay a little extra.
posted by Green With You at 10:30 AM on June 19, 2008


I'm not really sure why people keep wanting to drag programmers into this - this has nmuch more of the feel of some kind of bullshit management decision from on high. Knowing devs I bet more than a few of them are grumbling about the stupidity of this.
posted by Artw at 10:31 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


That is, I'll pay extra if I don't get throttled arbitrarily.
posted by Green With You at 10:34 AM on June 19, 2008


Bad, bad PR move. How much is it going to cost to get their good image back, compared to the savings of a slightly-less-complicated database?

The really clueless part is the way they refuse to give any legitimate reason for the change. If it will make the site faster or save money or something, just say so.
posted by designbot at 10:36 AM on June 19, 2008


middleclasstool: However, there's a catch: The queue limit is now per account, not per profile, so you must share your queue limit among those profiles.

I wish Profiles had worked this way from the beginning. I'd like to have separate queues for me and my g/f, but we're on the 3-disc plan, and we still tend to watch most selections together, so why be forced to allocate?
posted by mkultra at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2008


Shit. I love Profiles. It keeps me from killing mr. tula when he keeps The Bicycle Thief for, like, 5 months without watching it while I'm making sure we can burn through a season of Battlestar Galactica in a week. This is the first thing that Netflix has planned that I seriously would call a misstep. I'd much rather give up monitoring my "friends" cues or some other fluff feature.

But generally Netflix is great for us---turnaround time is great, damaged disks are replaced quickly and without grief. I like recommending and taking recommendations from my friends, and I know I rent more documentaries, foreign and serious movies than I did when I rented from a store since I can wait till I'm in the mood for them.
posted by tula at 10:48 AM on June 19, 2008


I'm sure that Netflix will be reducing my monthly fees since they're taking away a useful feature.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:01 AM on June 19, 2008


I think middleclasstool has the perfect solution. Add it to a petition!
posted by tula at 11:23 AM on June 19, 2008


This is kind of odd to me. Now that there isn't a decent way to sort out rentals into seperate queues for whatever reason, that means there's going to be a lot more bandwidth spent on organizing a single queue to try and quasi-replicate the same experience as before.

Plus it just will piss off anyone that was using it, but I guess that doesn't have a dollar sign attached to it so there's no way a corporation can possible calculate that I suppose.
posted by Talanvor at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2008


I'm sure that Netflix will be reducing my monthly fees since they're taking away a useful feature.

If only that were so. Did they charge you more when they added it?
Also, is there some plan to replace this profiles feature with something new? It seems odd to go backwards like this, unless it was costing them significant amounts of $$ to manage it.
posted by a3matrix at 11:36 AM on June 19, 2008


I am extremely disappointed in this, but I can't quite muster outrage. I sincerely hope they reconsider, but if not, we(as in my household) will learn to live with one shared queue. After all, that's what we did before profiles were implemented.
posted by owtytrof at 11:53 AM on June 19, 2008


Oh, I guess I'll lose my recommendations/ratings as well. That's minor compared with losing the ability to have a seperate queue, but still quite annoying.

unless it was costing them significant amounts of $$ to manage it.

Weird thing is this will be costing them a whole bunch of money and effort to implement, and the theioretical savings on storage are pretty negligable given how cheap that is these days. Presumably theres some kind of benefit to them on the business end of things, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it is.
posted by Artw at 12:17 PM on June 19, 2008


Possibly profiles was blocking some additional set of features along the way... If so it better be one bloody good featureset.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on June 19, 2008


I actually don't even care anymore if they don't axe profiles. They already lost me. I was with them because they were useful and the barrier to exit was high. Turned out that the parts of the barrier that hadn't been closed by Moore's law since 2001 were mainly psychological and I've already climbed it.

I made a internet-accessible list (i.e. I can get there from home and work) of the stuff I want to download and I can just BT the next thing I want when I want it. Since I can have more than one thing going at a time and can burn them to DVD to watch on the couch...I win.

Screw you too, Netflix. I hope you one day realize the mistake you made.
posted by DU at 12:28 PM on June 19, 2008


So was I the only one who set up single-slot-single-title queues to force Netflix to send something they slapped a wait on?
posted by NortonDC at 1:04 PM on June 19, 2008


I find this move almost totally baffling -- the database costs associated with this stuff would be negligible. And if they're sending you a new movie every time you send one back, why do they give a shit which list it comes from?
posted by jacquilynne at 1:17 PM on June 19, 2008


What's particularly interesting about this, right now, is that the official company line is that only 1% of users are using the feature. Given the uproar online so far, I find that hard to believe; this doesn't even get into the fact that the majority of the people I know who use Netflix use this feature.

So, it feels an awful lot like either Netflix as a whole is lying completely about it, or, alternately, someone internal wanted to axe the feature, claimed only 1% of users were using it, and nobody else in the company actually checked.

Either way, 1% seems like complete bullshit; some googling isn't turning up the exact numbers, but around 2006 they had in the neighborhood of 5.5 million subscribers. Even if we assume that has doubled in the last 2 years to 10 million, we're then talking about 100,000 subscribers who they claim are using this feature. How much extra data can we possibly be talking about here?

If the DBAs at Netflix aren't completely retarded, the queues are likely represented as simply a list of UPCs referencing the titles. So, we're not even talking about a list of the actual titles, we're talking about a list of 12 digit numbers. Each one would require all of 12 bytes of data to hold. At a similarly ludicrous average of 500 items per queue, you're talking less than 6 kilobytes per queue.

With that in mind, I have a hard time believing all this oh-so-awful storage overhead amounts to more than 600 megabytes of storage.

What the hell is wrong with Netflix that they're willing to take this kind of PR hit over less than a dollar's worth of disk space?
posted by tocts at 1:21 PM on June 19, 2008


I do the Tressider technique too, it makes for amazing surprises when that little red envelope comes. It's like, will this be Japanese horror, or a Victorian costume drama? Who knows? It preserves and sustains us, this mystery.
posted by Mister_A at 1:25 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Given the uproar online so far, I find that hard to believe;

1% of a huge usebase is still a lot of people. I'm also kind of guessing they're the more proactive ones and thus given to be shouty.

It still sounds kind of low.
posted by Artw at 2:09 PM on June 19, 2008


But it's also good for couples, because most peoples' significant others have terrible taste in movies and always hog the queue.

I know yours does.
posted by dobbs at 4:11 PM on June 19, 2008


Oh thank god, I can finally get my ex boyfriend's profile off of there.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:02 PM on June 19, 2008


Given the uproar online so far,

518 so far! Doomed is very much the Netflix.
posted by swell at 6:47 PM on June 19, 2008


I would pay $1 per month for the profiles feature. This is the same amount they reduced my monthly payment by about a year ago. They could drop the on demand feature, for all I care.

If any other online DVD rental company offers this feature, I will sign up with them...

If Netflix doesn't reverse this decision, I will be cancelling our account.
posted by rockjetty at 7:54 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Already sent a complaint on the Netflix form and just called as well. The service rep's reasoning was that only something like 2% of customers were using the feature (up from the 1% mentioned earlier!) so there is all this unused database space out there being held in limbo. Huh?? Of course, my suggestion was to better advertise this great feature, rather than just take it away. She also said they would be expanding the queue limits, which doesn't help me at all.

My favorite suggestion came when I asked how this would affect our movie recommendations now, since I might give a particular movie 5 stars and my husband give the same movie 1 star. She suggested we work together to come up with a general "family rating." Yeah, that sounds effective! I find it interesting to note that they offer a $1 million prize for anyone that can improve movie recommendation accuracy by 10% while at the same time suggesting we average whole groups of random people together to create one generic, useless "family rating" per account. I guess recommendation accuracy isn't all that important after all.
posted by platinum at 8:02 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


For a company that sends zillions of physical disks across the country every day, they're actually worried about a few bits in a db?

Please.
posted by schwa at 9:40 PM on June 19, 2008


Is there some sort of ribbon we can wear in solidarity with those that lost their Netflix profiles?
posted by Jpfed at 2:04 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the whole purpose of this is to ensure that no one is able to win the million dollar prize for improving the rating accuracy by 10 percent? It sounds nuts, but not really any more crazy than taking away this feature because only a few hundred thousand people use it, rather than a few million...
posted by nushustu at 8:09 AM on June 20, 2008


I'm quite confident I could improve Netflix's recommendation accuracy by well over 10% for members who share an account. I would do it by implementing a new feature I like to call "Profiles."

Where do I go to pick up the check?
posted by designbot at 12:31 PM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe this is why they want to ditch the multiple queues on your netflix account.
posted by Dave Faris at 12:44 PM on June 24, 2008


Wow. I just got an email from Netflix, saying they're going to keep the profiles after all.

I guess all that bitching worked.
posted by nushustu at 2:17 PM on June 30, 2008




Yipee!!!!

They love* us small, but vocal bunch!

*tolerate
posted by Feisty at 2:30 PM on June 30, 2008


Yay!
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on June 30, 2008


Woo hoo!
posted by platinum at 2:50 PM on June 30, 2008


Netflix keeps profiles, and keeps my business.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:54 PM on June 30, 2008


Now people can cite this as the one time in internet history that an online petition has actually worked!!!
posted by rockjetty at 3:15 PM on June 30, 2008


Maybe, though the message from Netflix specifically mentioned "all the calls and emails telling [them] how important Profiles are." I don't know that it was the online petition so much as the online roar of anger that persuaded them.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:41 PM on June 30, 2008


We Are Keeping Netflix Profiles

Dear [Name],

You spoke, and we listened. We are keeping Profiles. Thank you for all the calls and emails telling us how important Profiles are.

We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. We hope the next time you hear from us we will delight, and not disappoint, you.

-Your friends at Netflix


All's well that ends well, it seems.

~FIN~
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:43 AM on July 2, 2008


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