Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Netflix Can't Say Goodbye

My continuing coverage of Netflix continues, breathlessly as ever, with the news that its forward-thinking CEO

... is now going to separate Netflix's DVD and streaming businesses into two different brands. The online half will be called Netflix, while the DVD-by-mail portion will be called Qwikster. The two services won't share anything—your queues, ratings, and even your billing information will remain distinct on each site. In a sign of how hastily Netflix arrived at this idea, it seems to have forgotten to search for @qwikster on Twitter. That handle is owned by a person whose avatar is an image of Elmo smoking a joint.
In Netflix/Qwikster's defense, I am pretty sure that the Elmo-smoking-a-joint avatar is a default assigned by Twitter to accounts that don't select a custom avatar. I could be wrong, but since this would be more interesting if true, it is true and I am not wrong. That's how the world works.

Oh, but I am wrong -- wrong to say anything in defense of Netflix/Qwikster, that is, and I will start here: I am not going to type that fucking stupid name ever again. In English, the letter w does not follow the letter q in any actual, correctly spelled word. That name is a hideous abomination, and given that it now applies to the side of the service I can more or less tolerate, I can expect it to prey on my sensibilities every time it is splayed across an envelope in my mailbox.

Netflix is certainly putting a lot of faith in its video streaming business, and why not when fully nine eight six of its top 100 rentals are available via streaming? A generous observer might round that up to 10%! I will not. I will observe instead that it continues to underscore the paltry quality of Netflix's streaming content even among its current subscribers. Now that they're breaking the service in half, it's not clear where our ratings and rental history will go, and as a result, the suggestion algorithm, which is often helpful in pointing to lesser-known titles, will no longer function as it did before.

So, to summarize: Netflix is joining the poor quality of its video streaming offerings to a less useful web site experience and more complex billing. More and more, Netflix's business model is reminding me of President Obama's approach to politics: someone in charge has decided the endeavor is no longer worth the trouble, so why even try to do the right thing, or even the popular thing?

Really, Netflix and president chickenshit: it's OK to say goodbye and quietly exit the scene. Be brave. Just take your severance package and pretend it never happened. You will be pleasantly surprised how quickly you are forgotten.

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