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Netflix To Eliminate Profiles Feature 508

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-profile-for-you dept.
Donald Burr of Borg writes "One of my favorite features of Netflix, the video-rental-by-mail service, is 'profiles.' Profiles lets you create 'sub-accounts' for your friends/family, so that they can share in the video rental love. Each profile gets his/her own Netflix queue that he/she can manage with their own login/password. You can divide up how many movies get sent to you vs. the other profiles under your account. E.g. if you have a 6-out-at-once plan, you can choose to get 3 movies at a time, and have 3 other profiles each receive 1 movie. Unfortunately, the fun stops September 1, at which point Netflix is, for unknown reasons, going to terminate this feature. Why? To '...help us to continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.' Improvement indeed."
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Netflix To Eliminate Profiles Feature

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  • by jggimi (1279324) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:00AM (#23853275)
    I do not understand what cost savings Netflix would achieve by this reduction in service.
    • by something_wicked_thi (918168) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:02AM (#23853301)
      I'd imagine a substantial portion of their customers will now pay for two accounts. The rest will make due with one queue for two people. It'll also reduce their maintenance cost. Pretty sleazy, nonetheless.
      • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:14AM (#23853447)
        there's an up-side to this.

        lately, I've been THROTTLED (big-time). I just upgraded from a 3 at once plan to almost double that. and for the first few weeks, things came in the mail on schedule and on time.

        lately, though, things are being sent from far away centers; when I return discs directly to the PO, only some are showing up the next day at NF (I live in the silicon valley area and its ALWAYS a 1day hop from local to local!).

        there are many tricks NF is playing, but the short of it is: if you are a heavy renter, you get penalized.

        solution: go away and come back. at least that's what I have read. cancel for a month then re-join. you get a new slate and they stop throttling you (for a while, at least).

        lather rinse repeat.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ubrgeek (679399)
          (I'm sure someone in another post already pointed this out, but I'm too lazy to check.) The fact that this is happening is old news [msn.com]. Been the case for a few years, despite their claim that they were taking steps to fix it.
          • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:51AM (#23856797)
            I realize that there was a legal settlement a few yrs ago with NF.

            but they have NOT changed their ways, not in any significant way. read their TOS - they have the slipperiest weasel words possible.

            they STILL do ALL the things they were accused of. they have not changed one bit, other than their WORDING on their site.

            its deeply built into their business model, I guess. but its still WRONG to say 'unlimited' when its clearly not at all unlimited.

            I live 20 minutes drive from their los gatos main center. I drop my dvd's in the mail AT THE POST OFFICE early in the AM. I am 99.9% certain that each one does get from sunnyvale to san jose in a day. there is just no way in hell it can take more than that; so why do discs not show up as 'received' until about 2 days later?

            and even then, some of them 'downgrade' to shipping tomorrow over the course of the day. I check NF at 7am and I see that 2 have been received and are said to be shipping today. but later in the day, mysteriously they change to shipping tomorrow. yet my queue has over 300 entries!

            they are still throttling. and they are lying thru their teeth about it every time they deny it.
      • by malchus842 (741252) <stephen@adamsemail.net> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:22AM (#23853561) Homepage

        Well, this feature is what makes Netflix make sense for us. I divide up our plan into two queues - one for me, one for the wife & kids. They get what they want, I get what I want (I have less time to watch, so sometimes I have a movie at home for a week or more) and we don't get in each other's way.

        Fundamentally, without this feature, Netflix becomes a pain in the butt to manage for us. Right now, I can be sure that when I send a movie back, I get one of my movies. The same goes for the others.

        I'm going to cancel on Aug 31 (and have told them so) if they don't keep this feature.

        • by bilbravo (763359)
          The same situation here, except minus the kids. My wife will get movies to watch on her laptop while I am doing work or playing a video game. The movies in my queue are either things I would only watch, or we would watch together. She may go through 2-3 a week, I go through 1-2 a month.
          I also wrote Netflix an e-mail and really do plan on quit unless they reverse this policy. The feature is already implemented, I can't imagine it costs that much more to maintain as the code that manages the queues is al
      • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:31AM (#23853669) Homepage
        If that's the reason, why not just say "we need to charge for this now". Existing users get grandfathered in, new users must pay an extra small fee.

        • They have that already. It's called separate accounts.
          • They have that already. It's called separate accounts.
            And if you want a single billing statement to 1 credit card?

            • I can guarantee that the separation of accounts from queues causes quite a bit of complexity (think about how that has to be implemented at the UI, class, database, and even fulfillment level). For the customer convenience of having just one billing statement to a credit card (which gets you what, exactly?) seems a little ludicrous.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by sasdrtx (914842)
                Bullshit. The system is *already there*. It's been running for years. I can't figure out the real story on this, but fucking your customers to make life a little easier on your IT staff just doesn't fly in my universe.
      • by Fozzyuw (950608) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:35AM (#23853713)

        I'd imagine a substantial portion of their customers will now pay for two accounts. The rest will make due with one queue for two people. It'll also reduce their maintenance cost. Pretty sleazy, nonetheless.

        Actually, from a pure consumer standpoint, this change makes no difference. Netflix already has a pricing model such that, the CHEAPEST plan is 3 DVD / time. If you move from 3 to 4 out at a time, you actually pay more and from 4 to any other number, the price is the same (per DVD at a time).

        If you had 6 at a time and choose to go to 3 at a time with 2 accounts, you'll actually save money (mere pennies, though). Since it was a separate login/password for each profile, there's no difference between having a separate account, expect for the "master user" having full view access. For those who allow their children to rent, they will still just use one account and they'll have to spend more time on their end managing their queue and that's an unfortunate hassle.

        But I think you're right. I think profiles are causing a real PITA for the site programmers to maintain code and scrapping it all together will allow faster and more flexible programming models. They're probably finding legacy code such that the programmers are like "we want to do this but the way profiles currently work, it's preventing us from doing it without a complete programming change to the profiles system".

        Instead of sinking a large cost into fixing profile code, they're probably just going to scrap it all together so they can implement whatever new and shiny features or improve database speeds or whatever.

        I thought the feature was awesome, but from a "money" standpoint, I don't see how Netflix is doing this to "screw customers" out of more money, as their current payment plans emphasis 3/time movies over any other. Unless there's some research that says that 3/time people keep their movies longer than 6/time people or something.

        Cheers,
        Fozzy

        • Cope (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:09AM (#23854319)
          I think profiles are causing a real PITA for the site programmers to maintain code and scrapping it all together will allow faster and more flexible programming models.

          My boss' response to that kind of reasoning? backed up by the marketing department, CEO, and customers? "Cope."

          Massively degrading the user's experience is not excused by programmer's convenience.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by computechnica (171054)
          The big problem is if you have seperate accounts the chances of renting the same movie goes up. With Profiles if you selected a movie that is already on another profile it would warn you of duplicates.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Frosty Piss (770223)

        Pretty sleazy, nonetheless.

        Why? NetFlix, as I'm sure you understand, is not some altruistic service for movie geekdom. It's a business. From their standpoint, if it is possible to increase their revenue by eliminating this "feature", then they should do it. They are in business to make money, it's not the public library.

        Any discomfort will soon be forgotten, and they may even be able to shed themselves of the dead-beat "customers" that cost them more than they make.

        • by Fnord666 (889225) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:59AM (#23854141) Journal

          Any discomfort will soon be forgotten, and they may even be able to shed themselves of the dead-beat "customers" that cost them more than they make.
          I doubt that the customers using this feature are the ones they would like to eliminate from their customer base. I suspect that most of customers using this feature do so (like I do) in order to segregate out my selections and returns from my children's choices. They have a tendency to hang on to movies for a while before they watch them, or they watch them several times before sending them back. I didn't really care about it since it was their queue, not mine. Now it is everyone's queue and I will be sending things back in a shorter period of time. In addition, several of my friends have signed up for netflix for their households once I described this feature to them.

          This "downgrade" in service has reminded me to take another look at the market and see what other companies like Blockbuster are doing. If they are offering this service, I will probably send my Roku back and switch services.
        • by something_wicked_thi (918168) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:01AM (#23854181)
          God, I hate people like you.

          People who say things like, "Well, obviously, company $x is a business, so they can do whatever they want" or "Your boss pays you money to work, so you have to do whatever he says" are invariably idiots.

          NetFlix offered this feature. Some people bought the service in part because of this feature. Now it's being taken away. No discounts or temporary account upgrades or anything. Not even a way to migrate the old profiles to a new account. That's pretty sleazy.

          As for "dead-beat customers that cost them more than they make", that does not make someone a dead beat. That makes them thrifty.

          It is expected that both sides will act rationally. Customers will make the most out of their money, and NetFlix will cut features that cost them money. Calling their customers deadbeats is idiotic. But NetFlix is not handling this very well at all. They are taking something away without offering a thing. Customers are going to be pissed, and they've got a right to be.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by SkyDude (919251)

            God, I hate people like you.

            People who say things like, "Well, obviously, company $x is a business, so they can do whatever they want" or "Your boss pays you money to work, so you have to do whatever he says" are invariably idiots.

            Hate? Wow, you must have a difficult life.

            A business can do as it pleases if there is a financial justification to do so. You as a consumer, can stop doing business with such a business if you don't like the change. It's not like NF has a monopoly on mail order rentals.

            That's called choice, and we all have the right to make it. In this case, a good thing is going away. A lot of comments on here have the change related to database management issues, but I'd guess that's a small part of the issue. Most like

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            NetFlix offered this feature. Some people bought the service in part because of this feature. Now it's being taken away. No discounts or temporary account upgrades or anything. Not even a way to migrate the old profiles to a new account. That's pretty sleazy.

            I don't understand why it's sleazy. It's rude, and it's a good reason to cancel your account, but it's not like you had to make some investment to use netflix. It's a monthly fee, they're free to change the terms of service, and you're free to stop using netflix.

            Customers are going to be pissed, and they've got a right to be.

            Agreed. But it still doesn't make netflix sleazy. Just stupid.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jdavidb (449077) *

            It is expected that both sides will act rationally. Customers will make the most out of their money, and NetFlix will cut features that cost them money. Calling their customers deadbeats is idiotic.

            Given all of that, why are you calling Netflix "sleazy"? Is it only idiotic to speak of someone in a derogatory way for acting in their own self interest when they are a customer, but perfectly fine if they are running a business?

        • by Thuktun (221615) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @12:40PM (#23859455) Homepage Journal

          they should do it. They are in business to make money, it's not the public library.
          You're right. They are entitled to shoot themselves in the collective foot by driving customers away. It's a free market, after all.
      • by Gewalt (1200451) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:54AM (#23854037)
        I dunno, I'm more inclined to believe they were hit with some kind of patent lawsuit, and just folded. Netflix operates on razor thin margins, so if there was a good chance they would lose the patent suit, it could potentially obliterate that margin.

        That's not to say I would put the slimeball tactic outside of the realm of possibilities, but that just seems less likely.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hazem (472289)
        I'd imagine a substantial portion of their customers will now pay for two accounts.

        Well, here's a customer who just changed to paying for no accounts. I'll just go back to getting movies from the library.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by tgd (2822)
      My first thought was someone sued them quietly for patent infringement and they settled.

      If that's the case, that's a big cost savings.
    • I expect it's more customer retention. How many of you with siblings had this sort of conversation as a kid?

      Sibling A: But mom, I want more of Item X!
      Parent: But you already get the same amount as your brother, that's fair.
      Sibling A: But I'm older, I should get more!
      Parent: That doesn't matter, it's staying as it is.
      Sibling B: If he gets more then I want more!
      Sibling A: If he gets more then I want more!
      Sibling B: If he gets more then I want more!
      Sibling A: If he gets more then I want more!
      Siblin
  • Probably a bug. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@exit0.COMMAus minus punct> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:00AM (#23853281) Homepage
    I would guess that it isn't working properly from their standpoint making it a PITA to maintain and deal with.
  • Not a good sign (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monoman (8745) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:01AM (#23853289) Homepage
    Based on the information coming out on this it doesn't look good. Did they research how much this would piss off the current customers? It is coming off like they don't care. Perhaps the profile feature is causing bigger problems behind the scenes. If it is the later then they should find better programmers to work around the problem(s).
  • by Inari (19318) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:01AM (#23853293)
    My family uses it and its only been a positive. I'm betting a bean counter marketing type suggested that it might force me to get separate accounts if I couldnt use the separate queues.
    • by ArieKremen (733795) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:14AM (#23853449)
      We are using this feature to manage two queues: one for our kids and one for the adults. It has been a great feature. Before it was introduced we have to continually micromanage the queue, hold on to disks to 'work' the systems (postal and Netflix), and suffered the occasional disappointments.

      The profiles allowed us more flexibility and better service. I think that Netflix is trying to increase revenue without increasing their monthly fees. Downgrading our plan and subscribing to another minimal would cost us at least $2.00/month. It is definitely a hidden cost increase.

      Has anyone here had experience with the Blockbuster service? Does it support queues and how is their selection?
  • Bad Move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bullet618 (1036750) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:05AM (#23853341)
    I think they're trying to get people to pay for more than one account. I don't know what features they could be adding that would warrant dropping sub accounts. I have a funny feeling this is going to backfire and they'll lose more people than they gain.
  • This has been a life-saver for me; rather than having to remember what movies my wife wants to see, and having my movies held up when she takes a week to watch one, I can set her up with her on mini-queue and then not have to worry about it. What Netflix fails to realize is that there is no way in hell I will pay for a separate account for this, and I doubt many other people will, either. I was fairly upset when I got the email, and am considering looking at the Blockbuster service, since I can also use i

  • by FirstNoel (113932) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:16AM (#23853491) Journal
    I'd give it a week and some skilled firefox hacker will create some addon to put it back in from the user side.

    Sean D.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sleepy (4551)
      The only part of 'profile' that matters is the separate queues. That will be gone... web GUI tricks won't affect the Netflix shipping department.

      I DON'T think Netflix would have done this if Walmart was still alive in their DVD rental business.

      Last I checked Blockbuster's online store worked poorly in FireFox... and if the stores are any indication, probably all of their movies default to "full screen" (pan and scan).

      My favorite is GreenCine.com... but they only ship from the west coast, and movie turnover
      • by mdmkolbe (944892)
        Ok, so keep the queue on the browser side. Keep feeding the netflix queue one at a time to mimic multiple queues. It's not an ideal emulation of the real multiple queues, but it might be passable.
      • If you have a large queue, then when viewing the full queue in Firefox it is pretty slow. Way too much AJAX going on. But I'm not even sure if they have full screen movies on their site, at least the default has always been widescreen for me. And I haven't seen a full screen movie in the store in years either.
    • Yeah, that was my immediate thought. I have a handful of Greasemonkey scripts, and when I saw this article I wondered what it would take to re-create the feature. To do it right, you'd need a central server of your own that Greasemonkey could use to store which items were flagged as yours. Then you'd need to provide some kind of labeling feature to the page ("10 of the movies on this list are for me, 30 are for my spouse, and 20 are for my kids"), and finally a "rebalance" option that would take the sing
  • The so-called reason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by g051051 (71145) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:20AM (#23853535)
    According to their customer support, this was a feature only used by 1% of subscribers, but was a significant drain on resources, increased maintenance difficulties, and slowed down adding new features. I don't particularly buy most of that, but if the 1% thing is true, then I can see how they'd make that choice. If more of that 1% convert to full subscriptions rather than cancel, it'll be a win for them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by es330td (964170)
      I think the problem with the profiles from the user's perspective is that the user had to log in as a different user to utilize the features of the queues. If they could set up folders within a single login to which movies can be added and discs assigned to then it would make using the queues much simpler. I just sent them a User Request outlining the importance of being able to group movies and assign discs to the groups. The profiles *were* a PITA to maintain but they did work once set up.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:26AM (#23853611) Homepage
    I've been a Netflix subscriber for over four years. This is the first time they've ever taken a step backwards. And their complete lack justification is very strange.
  • by richg74 (650636) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:28AM (#23853629) Homepage
    Why? To '...help us to continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.'

    Touching. I'm reminded of a sign I once saw on the door of a bank branch, some years ago while I was living in Boston:

    For your convenience, this branch will be closed Monday, mm/dd/yy, a legal holiday.
    For my convenience. Heartwarming, isn't it, how these folks are always looking out for us.
  • Lovefilm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stephen (20676) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:34AM (#23853697) Homepage
    That's strange because Lovefilm, the dominant DVD-by-mail company in the UK, has only recently introduced this feature.
  • Looks clear to me from reading the summary, they get 2 paying accounts instead of one.
  • by bay43270 (267213) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:40AM (#23853777) Homepage
    I use the profiles feature, but not in the intended way. I keep a separate queue for different types of movies. I currently have 3 profiles. One for TV shows (so I always have 1 Torchwood disc at home), one for mindless action & scifi movies that I can watch without my wife, and one for movies for us to watch together. All the movies are for me, but I've had to create three profiles with fake names. Each time I switch between queues, I have to login again. Any since it thinks each queue represents a separate person, it doesn't remember any of my past rentals or movie ratings.

    Personally, when I got the email from Netflix, a little part of me thought 'good... maybe their going to try to do it right this time'
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:45AM (#23853867)
    I just called Netflix customer service to ask for clarification on how this helps improve the web site. The rep responded that they needed to free up programming space for better features, and that it's really a tiny, tiny percentage of people that use profiles to separate queues. (Slashdot and Gizmodo, the two sites I checked for reactions to this, are apparently chock full of tiny, tiny percentages.)

    When I told her that I'm a programmer and I don't understand what it means to free up programming space, she was quiet for a moment and then said, "This is really a decision that they've already made, so it's not like they're going to change their minds."

    I'm all for freeing up programming space. Statistics show that programming space will be all used up in the next 10 years if we don't start conserving it.
  • Profiles is the only reason I would have switched from Blockbuster to Netflix. Blockbuster was great for my wife and I because we could return movies to the store and get more movies for free (my wife watches a lot of stuff on the days she has off). But we're moving away from any nearby Blockbuster stores this week so I was seriously considering switching to Netflix. I would love it if my wife and I each had our own queue. Then we wouldn't get 10 romantic comedies in a row or 10 action movies. Ah well.
  • by Scyber (539694) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:03AM (#23854211)
    "I just wanted to share that I am extremely disappointed to see Profiles going away. Profiles have allowed my wife and I to share a netflix account without any marital discord. Now I will have to navigate the horrors of balancing my wife's desire for romantic comedies with my desire for action & sci-fi movies. I will be sure to forward you the transcripts of our arguments so you too can join in the discomfort."
  • by HikingStick (878216) <<z01riemer> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:17AM (#23854487)
    I was in the first wave to join Netflix, and I was a user who, early on, made repeated requests for better ways to manage the queue. What they implemented was a good try, but it was not that for which I was looking. As the account owner, I wanted to be able to manage all queues from a single screen. I despised the way I needed to manage each queue on its own screen (I gave up on profiles at least a year ago, so I don't know if they rectified this).

    What I envisioned originally was to be able to manage multiple lists on a single screen: lets call them List A, List B, and List C. When browsing and adding movies to the queue, you still have one button to add movies, but it would have a drop-down option that would let you choose another queue. Thus, the default button action would be the same, but you would have the option of diverting the request. For queue management, I had pitched a system similar to the one the adopted, allowing you to specify how to intersperse the movies from the other queues. For controls, I envisioned parameters only on the sub-queues. Using the names I provided earlier in and example, you could configure List B to send one movie after every three sent on the primary queue. I envisioned being able to drag-and-drop between the lists on the same GUI page. As for others adding their preferences to the queue, the account owner could specify users (by email address) who could logon and add to specific queues, much the way the service was implemented. For younger kids who may not have their own eddresses, Netflix could have allowed the account owner to create logon accounts that would be child accounts and have limited rights. If the owner's logon was thisuser@somedomain.com, for example, I envisioned secondary accounts that could be named subAccountName~thisuser@somedomain.com.

    Oh, and yes, I was this verbose in passing my comments on to Netflix. I was pleased that they opted for profiles, but was disappointed by how cumbersome they were to manage. Placing all profile management in a single page view would have gone far in making them easier to use.

    I guess I'm disappointed to see Netflix throw out the baby with the bathwater, but they can see that users like me have stopped using the profiles. It reaches a point where the amount of developer support hours and system maintenance tasks invested in a minimally used feature necessitates a pause to rethink the strategy. Hopefully we will see an improved queue management system in the future.
  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:32AM (#23854837)
    Does anyone know if Blockbuster's movie-rental-by-mail program offers separate queues?
  • My theory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anita Coney (648748) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:17AM (#23855945) Homepage
    I've been a Netflix subscriber for over four years and I've never used the profiles. I never saw a reason for them. But, in reading through the threads here, apparently they are widely used. (Even though I still don't understand why [slashdot.org].)

    Anyway, here's my theory. Netflix will bring the profiles back but charge a "nominal" fee each month for each profile. Like maybe 50 cents per month. Overtime the fee will be raised to actually increase Netflix's profits.
  • by IronyChef (518287) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @02:33PM (#23861759)
    Even though they've said the decision is final, I suggest commenting directly on the Netflix blog post [netflix.com] as hundreds of others are doing...

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