Friday, September 7, 2007

Online Community

Yesterday I received this question:
I find it interesting that the sidebar of this blog states "We are not a social network and are not trying to be." Netflix now has public profiles, member reviews, member lists, friends lists, etc. How is Netflix NOT a social networking site? Why doesn't Netflix embrace this concept?

I make a distinction - subtle though it may be - between a social network and an online community. In my mind, a social network has as at least one of its objectives as connecting people together... a sort of "meet up." I look at Facebook or MySpace as excellent social networks. Linkedin is kind of a social network, but they seem to self-describe as a business network. It's all about biz, but it's still about hooking up. Netflix is not like these. On the spectrum, i think we're more toward the Wikipedia end -- of lots of value because lots of people contribute and share. I see us as an online community - a group of like-minded folks, bonded by a common interest in movies - using our numbers to help each other. We don't need to meet or know each other, but we can still utilize each other to discover great movies from a very very large collection. That process does involve discerning things about each other, to help give context to suggestions/recommendations. But the purpose isn't for you and me to meet. Anyway, I wanted y'all to know that i wasn't interested in turning this into a dating site. Sometimes people see the word "community" and they get the wrong idea.


  1. Beautifully succinct, and enormously reassuring!

  2. I agree w/ the original commenter. This distinction is probably hard for most users to get, especially given that so many of the features you have exactly map to ones that other, more traditional social networks have long supported. I also don't see how it's a bad thing for Netflix; I think of the features you're building as providing me with a better alternative to Flixster.

  3. I can understand why you wouldn't want to act like a social network. I am sure that there are lots of people who use the service, that prefer their privacy. Netflix's mission is very different than a lot of the online film communities.

    I think that's good for most of the users, but for the customers who want to use these social services, Netflix makes it more difficult by not releasing an open API. I've got nearly 2,000 movies rated there and while I can manually input this into places like Flixstr or Spout, it creates an unnecessary obstacle and forces me to choose where I keep my data.

    If you don't want to be a social network, that is OK (and probably the right decision), but if you're not going to develop these features, than you should at least let your customers have a rich experience at the communities that support their needs.

  4. I'm completely with Michael on this one. I don't see any of the proposed changes as a threat (even if a welcome one) of Netflix becoming a social network. Yes, there are public profiles... but the profile isn't about YOU, it's about your MOVIE TASTES.

    I think the key differentiation is that in the Netflix community, an individual's identity is non-existant. Public profiles are for the purpose of gathering movie-related information from a trusted source. On a true social-networking site, even one based around movie watching (such as Flixster), the purpose is to find individuals you'd like to connect with -- movie tastes are a means by which to determine if actually want to become real friends with someone.

  5. Good distinction, Michael. I love that we can share movie ratings, reviews and comments and I think it will be even better when the new features roll out. People who are concerned about others reading their ratings can just not participate and mark their profile private.

    I've found a lot of excellent movies from others reviews and lists. I just wish there was an area in the queue to make notes of where I found these.

    The community is helpful. For example. I always use rottentomatoes and IMDB to check out movies. Jasmine, above, mentioned Flixter. I didn't know about it. Another resource. This kind of sharing is very helpful for finding great movies.

    I commend Netflix for devoting resources to the development of community features instead of just having lists of movies we can select. BTW, how's that list of all Netflix movies coming?

  6. I'm just here to see some movies. Improve that service, and you can keep the rest.

  7. Excellent point made, Michael. And I think, for the most part, you're right on track--most people are on here just to get movies.

    There are plenty of places online where you CAN go to chat about movies. That said, I'd love for there to be a place like that on Netflix. It doesn't have to be a networking site where your whole life is on display, and it certainly doesn't have to be for everybody. But there are people who would use it, and it'd be convenient to have Netflix as a one-stop shop for your movie-chatting needs.

    On an unrelated note, any chance of you guys getting another copy of "Sleuth," from 1972? I can't find a copy anywhere, even on here.

  8. …that you are 'not a socnet' is an irrelevant distinction, and pointless.

    I think you're trying to erroneously separate yourselves from those networks, when in fact, any interaction as far as commenting and adding friends makes it a social network.

    Don't fear it and call it something else. Embrace it and get over it. It is what it is.

  9. I see, you're going to have all the features of a social network and you're going to mimic social network , but you're not a social network. Thanks for clearing that up.

    If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a duck.

  10. If it was a duck you guys wouldn't be complaining so much that it isn't. The only social element on this site is Friends, and even that is a very limited and exclusively movie-centric exchange. And I get the strong impression that most of us would prefer that it stayed that way.

  11. It's not a social network for two very clear reasons:

    1) If I want to find my friend, Mike Smith, from high school... there is no way I could achieve this.

    2) If I find a reviewer I love, there is no way for me to know who this person is in real life or establish any kind of two-way communication with them.

    With the exception of Friends, Netflix is nothing like a social network and I do, in fact, prefer it that way.

  12. I want a friend that works at Netflix then maybe someone will contact me. Please view my blog

  13. No matter what layout you choose Netflix is great and I will be re joining their services soon