Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Netflix Tries Breaking Up Your Family, and Thinks You’ll Like It

You watch shows on Netflix. But so do your kids. Which means that Netflix’s vaunted recommendation engine, which watches what you watch and then makes suggestions, has a problem: Does it tell you to watch stuff like “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”? Or does it tell your kids to watch Taylor Schilling and her pals get up to hijinks in a women’s prison?

Reed Hastings’s company has been promising to tackle this one for a while, and today they are getting around to it, via personalized “profiles.”

The idea is a simple one: Up to five Netflix users per account can set up individual logs of their viewing habits, and Netflix will recommend stuff accordingly. And if you’re the kind of person who wants to share your viewing habits with your Facebook friends, you can  apply the profiles to that feature, so your pals will know you’re actually watching “Expendables 2,” and not “Emily’s First 100 Days of School.”

If you’re a close observer of Netflix, you will have already read about Netflix’s initial efforts at this earlier this year. If you want a very sincere explainer video, here’s one featuring Netflix engineer Eddie Wu (warning: may autoplay for some reason).

One thing you should know that’s not in the video: Netflix is rolling out the feature to most of the big platforms that support the service, like Blu-ray players, Xbox 360 and PS3 game consoles, Apple iOS devices and PCs. But Android users will have wait a bit, Wu says.*

This is a relatively small tweak to the service, but it still took Netflix about nine months to create a solution and test it out before they were willing to deploy it widely. And if it works, it should be a nice tool to increase retention, at least in theory: Better recommendations = more viewing = happier customers.

P.S.: “Jake” is reasonably watchable.

*If you’re the kind of person who likes talking about the relative merits of iOS and Android when it comes to developers, this one is interesting to mull.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work