Monday, August 13, 2007

Why There Is No Directory of Netflix Members:

Boy this would be great; either an alphabetical list (or some kind of search) of Netflix subscribers so you could find your friends... or maybe better -- the ability to import your Outlook or Address Book (et al) contacts to check to see who among them were already at Netflix so you could connect. But, alas -- it's against the law. That's right. It's not that we don't want to. We just can't.

Now I'm not a lawyer nor will I pretend to understand all the history and details here, but one of the outcomes from the Robert Bork Supreme Court stuff back around 1988 was the Video Protection Privacy Act that pretty much bars us (or any rental service) from disclosing your rental habits. The terms of use at Netflix allow you to permit us to reveal certain things about you when you use Friends and it is why you are anonymous when you write reviews (unless you make your nickname your real name), but a directory is out of the question. We've thought about making an opt IN directory, but it's hard to get everyone to participate and if you don't, it doesn't work all that well; and even using your own contacts and importing them reveals info about others without them opting in, so we can't do that either.

This isn't the case with other social networks that don't involve the rental or purchase of movies -- Facebook and MySpace (and the rest) can find members from your address books. (And I hear all of you with your requests for some interaction with those outside social networks. I can't speak to this right at the moment, but I agree its a very good idea.)

This is one reason the Friends invites work they way they do, and we tried to make it a little easier with the LINK you can copy and paste into your webpage or profile, or in an email you can send from your own mail account. It's not the same, but it can be a little better than coming up with an email address. We've got some interesting ideas on how to make it easier to connect with your Friends (or -- soon -- reviewers), but I wanted you to understand some of the constraints we have to work around when building communities within Netflix.

How many Friends do y'all have? And if you don't use the features, why not? (Is the loss of Minireviews the big reason???)