On June 19, 2008, thousands of Netflix subscribers received the following notice via email:
We wanted to let you know we will be eliminating Profiles, the feature that allowed you to set up separate DVD Queues under one account, effective September 1, 2008.
Each additional Profile Queue will be unavailable after September 1, 2008. Before then, we recommend you consolidate any of your Profile Queues to your main account Queue or print them out.
While it may be disappointing to see Profiles go away, this change will help us continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.
In essence, the Profile feature allows a family with one account to operate multiple individual queues. So, for example, it's possible for me to set up a queue, while my wife operates an independent queue of her own. We currently pay for a plan which includes two rentals at a time, and the Profile system won't choose a movie off of my queue unless the returned movie came from my queue.
My wife and I also happen to have different taste in movies. Thus, the benefit of separated profiles lies in each of us getting movie recommendations based on our distinct interests. Unfortunately, once we merge our queues, Netflix is going to recommend that I give Bollywood a try and dear God I do not want to give Bollywood a try. We're also going to fight about who is dominating the queue, and which of us is getting more movies geared towards our particular interests.
There's also a practical matter: We rent a lot of Season DVDs of various TV shows that we'd like to catch up on, or which, for whatever reason, we didn't get around to watching while they were airing. Adding an entire season of any given program adds, on average, 5 or 6 DVDs to a queue. The benefit of Profiles is that one of us can add the series while the other will still get movies, thus balancing out our consumption. Merging our queues will mean manually staggering movies between series DVDs, so that we don't have a few weeks in a row of nothing but one TV program, over and over.
As usual, the internet has spoken out: Twitter posts about Netflix went up drastically, shortly after the email was sent out to customers. Twitscoop, a website which analyzes popular topics on twitter via a graph of activity surrounding a given keyword, provides a great visual representation of the popularity of this decision. (A screenshot has been provided. in the sidebar.)
Many of the initial reactions have been negative:
- jmissig : I wonder if it's coincidence that I received my AppleTV the day Netflix announced the removal of Profiles.
- billstreeter : I can't believe Netflix is canceling their profiles feature. Why are they going backwards?
- jeremya : Netflix is eliminating their Profiles feature... I will either be downgrading or canceling my account.... http://tinyurl.com/53cell
And on and on.
Doing away with a popular feature is one thing, but claiming that the reason is because "the change will help us continue to improve the Netflix website for all of our Customers" is downright absurd.
How? What does my ability to utilize separate profiles -- a feature that is invisible to anyone who doesn't share my account -- have to do with any other Netflix subscriber? How will taking that feature away benefit others enough (or even at all) and thereby justify the annoyance of thousands of other customers?
It's possible that Netflix has some feature in mind to compensate for the loss of Profiles, but the wording of their email notification is baffling, at best. At worst, the suspicion is going to be that they're somehow losing money and are thus taking their ball and going home. They're going to lose a lot of customers over this, unless there's an immediate attempt at damage control.
The Apple TV is suddenly seeming like a compelling option, not as an addition to my Netflix subscription, but as a complete replacement. I'm intrigued by the HD downloads, even at the relatively low resolution that the HD content is served up at, and despite the current lack of content. In short: The potential is there.
If Apple would get on the ball, and allow me to pay a $15-$20 monthly subscription and queue up the movies I want to watch so that I can have two out at a time, and so that a new movie begins to download as soon as my window expires on a currently downloaded movie, I'd switch without hesitation. This system would even alleviate some of the concerns with download speeds, as you'd always have something downloading in the background, as you watch the content that has already been downloaded.
As it stands, Netflix' idiotic move may get a pass simply because Apple TV isn't quite where I want it to be yet, and Blockbuster Online isn't even an option, for me. Then again, it may not. Forcing me to manually merge our queues certainly isn't a good sign.