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The Netflix home screen. Each time you open Netflix you are shown a suggested film. I’ve never heard of Lionheart and I didn’t want to watch it. Imagine Google always opening with a suggested page for you!

Difficult to imagine a company growing as fast as Netflix as a failure. Several people ask me why I’m not using Netflix – it’s what everyone does. After a lot of prodding, I set up a trial and found out for myself – and soon gave up with Netflix. So where’s the failure? The failure is search and discovery! There are a lot of films I want that Netflix doesn’t have (that I can understand), but they make it very difficult to find what they don’t have (I can’t forgive them that).

Netflix insists on a browse model, giving it priority over search. No problem with that, but the content it shows me is usually content I have never heard of. I’ve heard that Netflix tries to promote content that costs less to provide, and it certainly looks that way.

  • I’m never sure that I am seeing all the content available on Netflix. One experienced user of Netflix told me confidently “you don’t get to see all the content they have immediately”. Why not?
  • The fabled Netflix algorithm that shows more content for me is simply a failure. When I signed up, I was asked to select three content items – and after a few screens I gave up because I didn’t like any of the content items they asked me to recommend. It is all explained here by Netflix; they say their recommendations are based on my viewing history, how I rated other titles, other members’ preferences, and information about genre and actors. Bizarrely, they also vary their precedence on the time of day you watch.
  • Netflix claim that “If you’re not seeing something you want to watch, you can always search the entire catalogue available in your country.” – but that is mighty difficult to do.
  • In the end, I abandoned Netflix, because I don’t want to spend many minutes searching for something they probably don’t have. I like classic films (and I mean films from the 40s and 50s) but Netflix doesn’t have lots of recent films either. Netflix is by no means a comprehensive collection; Amazon is much more inclusive. I don’t want a service that pushes content at me that I didn’t ask for, especially when I am paying (see figure 1). If the films aren’t there, the greatest algorithm in the world is a waste of time.
  • I believe in the principle of honesty: when you find no hits, tell the user. Netflix, to the best of my knowledge, never says “I didn’t find anything”.