For the past decade, if you had a Netflix subscription, you had the ability to leave reviews of everything you watched, from Penguins of Madagascar to The X-Files to Stranger Things. This weekend, Netflix changed the way users interact with its site, by closing its reviews section and deleting every review any user had ever posted.
The company has been notifying its customers of the change, and stopped allowing new reviews to be posted to its boards on July 30. According to the Netflix help page, “Netflix customers were able to leave reviews on Netflix.com until mid-2018, when reviews were removed due to declining use.”
There are other ways Netflix recommends content to its users, anyway. The “Because You Watched” tab offers viewers similar programming to a film or show they just finished, offering up Frozen Planet to someone who just blew through Planet Earth II and tracking their interests based on what they click. As streamers rely more on such algorithms to keep users stuck to screens, theres been a decline in platforms for good old peer-to-peer recommendations. Netflix erasing its reviews section comes a little more than a year after IMDb, the Amazon-owned database for everything film and TV, shut down its comment boards, though that space had become riddled with trolls and were no longer the space for civil discussion that they once had been.
Last year, Netflix traded in its five star ratings for a simple thumbs up-thumbs down system, which some users worried would siphon the nuance out of engaging with the sites content, relegating everything to either “good” or “bad.” A Netflix representative told Vanity Fair that the ratings and review systems didnt have any bearing on whether a show or movie was recommended to a user, explaining that, “The reviews never contributed to how we approaching personalizing recommendations for our broader member base and writing a bad review never had any bearing to whether a title was recommended to other viewers or not. The redesigned ratings system (thumbs up/down) helps us understand what to recommend to the specific member who gave that particular rating in the future, but does not impact what we recommend to other members. Recommendations to members are always personalized based on what we think that specific member will enjoy watching based on what they have watched before.”
And there could be bigger change afoot to the Netflix experience yet. The service confirmed to Ars Technica that it is testing out short ads that play between episodes during a binge-watch session.
Update 4:00 P.M. EST with a clarification from Netflix.
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