Netflix Quits Social Networking — Again

By  |  Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Thanks to Netflix, I’m starting to think social networks based on individual content providers are a lost cause.

Netflix announced this week that it’s abandoning a Facebook program that let subscribers rate movies and TV shows and share those ratings with friends. Never heard of it? You’re not alone; user disinterest is the reason Netflix is shutting it down, regrouping and coming up with a better strategy.

This is the second social networking effort that Netflix has scrapped over the last year. Last September, the company discontinued the “Friends” feature on its own website, which allowed users to view each others’ queues and recommend videos. Again, unpopularity was to blame.

Maybe Netflix is just really bad at social networking, but I’m more inclined to think that social networking and services like Netflix don’t mix.

For another example, look at Ping, the iTunes-based social network Apple launched last September. Some pundits heralded it as the MySpace killer, but if Apple’s desperate e-mail reminders are any indication, Ping’s been a cultural dud so far (and MySpace has enough problems of its own).

I’ve got a few guesses why social efforts from Apple and Netflix’s don’t work: Cultivating a network of people with similar tastes in music or movies takes a lot of effort, and most people don’t have time; people don’t want to be tied to a specific service for making recommendations; and watching a movie or listening to music is often a personal thing, and only folks who are really confident in their tastes will care to share.

To put it another way, social networks like Ping or Netflix “Friends” aren’t natural. They’re a forced conversation that very few people want to have. Next time I get a recommendation for music, movies or games, it’ll probably bubble up organically from my pals Twitter or Facebook, as it should.



9 Comments For This Post

  1. Jared The Geek Says:

    It is tough but I think that the Zune and Zune social is a pretty good example of what to do. You watch a movie, shows similar, shows users who watched it the most and their likes. You can share with friends, etc. A Zune like interface is what I want for my Netflix.

  2. PaladinTom Says:

    The reason the Facebook connectivity didn't work was because it wasn't implemented well. If I recall, you had to reenable it every few days so it would keep. posting to Facebook. I think there is gat value in seeing friends' recommendations and Facebook would seem the logical place to do it.

    Just give me an app that shows what I've recently rated, make it easy to exclude those embarrasing chick flicks and have it show the movie poster to make it look pretty. Could've worked, but was poorly executed.

  3. Chase Mather Turner Says:

    You're so wrong. If they came up with a really easy way to connect with friends and view their queues in an easy interface everyone would do it. (posted by connecting with Facebook).

  4. @frankczar Says:

    It's so simple. Just add a Like button on every movie. That's all they have to do. I look up a movie and I feel like sharing that I like it? I will. None of this queue sharing business. KISS.

    That and tell me the new releases once a week on their feed. Otherwise, just be quiet and let the Like button do its thing.

  5. Pragmatist Says:

    I think there is also another issue. Special interest forums, including for things like movies and music, have existed, and still continue to exist. However, they don't require you to use a specific service.

    I'd be willing to bet that a service that created a network that made it easy to share ANY music (or movie) information that a user liked, along with making it easy to have conversations about it, and then made it brainlessly easy (as in one click) to share links to service specific content, would have a winning formula.

  6. Bart Szyszka Says:

    Look at sites like Lala, Rdio, Social networks work if they're done right. Netflix's features have always been buried. When they had the Friends feature, it was difficult to find and they had nothing that would do something like scrape your Gmail/Yahoo/Facebook/Twitter contacts to find more friends (they claimed there was some legal privacy issue for this, but I think that's BS).

    But from the friends that I did have linked up to Netflix, it was great to be on a movie page and see that my friends had seen the movie and what they thought of it. If I see a friend's rating, that means something to me because I understand my friends' tastes in comedies, dramas, quirky movies, etc. But Netflix decided to focus on just showing comments from all their users and I never read those because I have no clue if stranger's tastes are similar to mine.

    They need to look at sites where this stuff actually does get used, and how easy it can be to use (if there's a quick way to add friends and the features are visible), instead of blaming it on the users not being interested in the features.

  7. marjoriedufek Says:

    I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to recommend a movie to a friend and haven't been able to figure out how to do it within Netflix own platform. Why would I want to go somewhere else to do it when I'm right there selecting movies for my queue anyway? When they ask me to rate the movie after I've seen it, it's a perfect time for them to make it easy for me to recommend the movie (and Netflix) to others. I hope they are listening and will make this change!

  8. Josh Says:

    This is dead wrong. It's almost insane to say that people don't want to network around their tastes in entertainment, in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. MySpace, Ping, and Netflix are all examples of poor execution, not an idea that people aren't interested in.

    — Josh

  9. @tbolandjr Says:

    the only reason Ping is a dud is because you have to use your real name instead of an alias, the concept would become popular if it gave us the option to hide behind a virtual personality…also, i myself havent given up on Netflix Friends, ive had a netflix account since 98/99 and I didnt even know they had a Friends option, if i did, i would have used it.