From the Netflix blog: “we’ve decided to terminate the profiles feature on September 1.”
The stated rationale: “the motivation is solely driven by keeping our service as simple and as easy to use as possible” and “Too many members found the feature difficult to understand and cumbersome.”
As per a smart colleague of mine, I try not to second-guess motives when I blog (anymore). It’s not really fair to the “target” as it doesn’t really invite a discussion, it just puts someone/a company on the defense. So if I were to question this issue, I might wonder if they have an ulterior motive, some nefarious business reason to terminate the feature (as others have speculated), but realistically I doubt it. If the feature is costing them money, they could simply charge for it, rather than yank it away (apparently permanently). So I trust that they truly believe this is the right decision for their users.
Which really is weird. You see, to make a decision like this implies several things, which I will address specifically:
- A large number of users were complaining about the problem.
I spent the past little while searching Google, their community, their support site, and GetSatisfaction, all looking for documentation regarding multiple account profiles. I found no articles. Not one.
- This problem is such a user interface challenge that fixing it wasn’t an option.
Again, per the Netflix blog, the complaint is “members found the feature difficult to understand and cumbersome, having to consistently log in and out of the website.” If this is truly a daunting task to overcome, how about enlisting some external user interface experts to help out? I for one would volunteer my services free of charge for the hour-or-two it might actually take to create a “multiple profile login system”, a problem even Microsoft has done a good job with.
- A series of intentional decisions were made to get to this moment.
Product managers and engineers chose not to fix it, but to eliminate it. This was presented to marketing and business decision makers who supported this decision. This was then signed off by someone at a senior enough level who also felt it was the right decision. The marketing and customer service departments were involved in the messaging plan to communicate the issue to the outside world. And it ended up on the company blog today, with an online assertion that this decision is permanent.
Wow, that’s a lot of time and energy spent on a decision which, to the outside world, appears quite a bad one. It’s been mere hours and we have (at the time of writing):
- Over 1300 Diggs
- Over 1100 e-signatures on this petition
- Over 500 posts on this community discussion thread (plus followups)
- Over 100 entries on GetSatisfaction (a small, yet growing community)
- Many angry bloggers. Many. Many. Many.
I feel bad for the product manager who had to write that blog post on Netflix’ behalf. It’s never a pleasant position to be the bearer of such incomprehensibly dumb bad spin news. I, as many I’ve linked to above, can’t help but question this move at many levels. It doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t feel right. I have historically liked the company (despite the fact they still use pop-under advertising. what is this, 1998?), but can’t help but feel cheated. I urge team Netflix to really read the feedback your customers are giving you, and reconsider this move. I have a hunch it’ll be a lot more “cumbersome” to lose customers than it will to reinstate the feature.
UPDATED: this decision was overturned by team Netflix. Huzzah.