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Netflix debuts new thumbs-up rating system

👍 or 👎 ?

 

Christine Friar

Streaming

Netflix has officially tossed out its five-star rating system for something a little simpler, and today is its first day in action.

A new thumbs-up, thumbs-down function allows users to mimic the behavior they’re already using on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. For years, Netflix viewers have rated movies and TV shows by assigning them a number of yellow stars—five stars meant you loved it, one star meant you hated it. That data helped the site generate new viewing recommendations based on your taste. But it turns out users are less likely to actually rate things when you give them more choices. Why weigh in if you can’t decide for sure whether something was three stars or four? The new “like” or “don’t like” system takes the quibbling of your assessment of the Great British Bake Off, and simply asks: Did you like this? Did you not like it? If you give a movie a thumbs-up, the site will recommend you similar programming. If you give it a thumbs-down, the site will adjust its recommendations accordingly. So Netflix functionality stays largely the same even though the graphics are changing up.

For some people, though, the star system was a Netflix-specific selling point. It set the company apart from YouTube and Hulu, where ratings are already broad. Redditors called for a protest in light of the announcement, and Gizmodo’s Rhett Jones pointed out that like the “social bubble” effect on Facebook, this simplified system will refine our feeds “to deliver what it already knows will get a reaction from you.” How likely are you to catch the release of that cerebral documentary you’re looking forward to if most of what you’ve thumbs-upped are TV comedies?

Netflix claims that in sample studies, the new system boosts the frequency of ratings by over 200 percent. So even if the system seems dumb to you rationally, you’ll probably still engage with it more. And in a press release, the company explained that the ease of use will solve common problems for users. “The kids use your profile for their Saturday morning cartoons – a few quick thumbs down will ensure Beat Bugs stays on their profile and off yours… You want to impress your new French crush, so you thumbs up for a self-guided crash course on foreign films starting with Amelie and Yves Saint Laurent.

In other words, watching a single random title no longer screws with your algorithm as much as it used to, because now it’s easier to counteract it. And ostensibly, if everyone is rating things more, your taste profile will be strong enough for you to catch that cerebral documentary without missing a beat.

Now all that’s left to do is get out there and try it.

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