Netflix Eliminating Profiles: Tells Us We Don’t Own Our Data

Last night Netflix sent out an email (full text below) explaining that it will be getting rid of profiles. For those unfamiliar, the profile feature allows one account to have multiple profiles. For example, you could pay $13.99 to get 2 DVDs at a time sent to your addresss but have one DVD come from your queue of chosen movies while the other DVD comes from another queue of movies.

It also allowed each queue owner to have their own movie ratings, recommendations, friends, etc. This feature is/was especially useful for families. As long as you’re all at the same address, you could pay for the 2-at-a-time plan and have your movie ratings, friends, recommendations, notes (basically all features) separate from your spouse’s.

Not only is Netflix taking this feature away, the company is also reminding us that we don’t own our own data. In the FAQ about this decision, Netflix states the following (emphasis added):

  • Your additional Profile Queues will be eliminated. If you would like to keep a copy of each Profile Queue we recommend that you print them out
  • Prior to Profiles going away, we will also email you a copy of your Profile Queues
  • Profiles movie ratings and Profiles Friends connections will no longer be available
  • You will not be able to transfer your Profiles data to a separate new account

So if someone in your household has written movie reviews, made friends, rated movies, sent notes, received recommendations, etc. — basically done any of the cool so called “web 2.0″ features made available on the site — they lose it all. You don’t even have the option to pay to keep it. How infuriating.

Netflix is quickly losing its otherwise positive image from this stupid mistake. The uprising has already begun. See Hacking Netflix for around 200 mostly negative responses or Get Satisfaction for another 50 or so. Some are hoping that there’s time for Netflix to change its mind, but Netflix spokesperson Steve Swasey said that the decision is a “final decision.”

See below for the ambiguous email sent from Netflix last night:

Important News Regarding Netflix Profiles

Dear Bob,

We wanted to let you know we will be eliminating Profiles, the feature that allowed you to set up separate DVD Queues under one account, effective September 1, 2008.

Each additional Profile Queue will be unavailable after September 1, 2008. Before then, we recommend you consolidate any of your Profile Queues to your main account Queue or print them out.

While it may be disappointing to see Profiles go away, this change will help us continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.

If you have any questions, please go to http://www.netflix.com/Help?p_faqid=3962 or call us anytime at 1 (888) 638-3549. We apologize for any inconvenience.

- The Netflix Team

*Update* So much for the “final decision,” Netflix has been “persuaded by the well-reasoned, sincere responses of loyal members” to reverse its decision!

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  • http://www.techconsumer.com Paul Ellis

    It really seems silly that they won’t make it possible to migrate the data over to the main account. It really couldn’t be that hard. The only issue would be how you deal with duplicate reviews, but that is workable.

    I can’t understand why they are getting rid of the extra profile accounts. It has been such a long standing feature of Netflix. Was is the benefit to Netflix in getting rid of them? A little less programming time? I bet that there will be a lot of families that will end up downgrading their account due to this change.

  • http://www.techconsumer.com Bob Caswell

    I could see how the multiple queues feature might make the process more difficult logistically for Netflix, but even if they got rid of that, aren’t the other features pretty automated?

    Meaning, what will Netflix save operationally if one account doesn’t have two profiles? Does having two sets of movie ratings and friends under one account really cost them that much?

  • http://www.onegirlsopinion.net Elizabeth

    While I am cranky that there’s not going to be a way to do multiple queues anymore, the multiple profiles were really a silly way to accomplish the system in the first place.

    This is a lot of noise and complaint over very little of actual substance. In the months to come, how hard is it to re-do reviews? Ratings? Most of it would be pretty simple to manually change over if you care all that much, but really, is that data so precious?

    I manually transferred my profile’s queue of over 240 in about twenty minutes this morning. I wish there had been a one button solution for that, but it also let me go through my movies to see if I wanted to leave them all on there.

  • http://www.techconsumer.com Bob Caswell

    Elizabeth,

    I can only speak for myself on this one, but that data does matter to me. I don’t engage in web2.0ish-like content online just so that someone else can pull the plug on it whenever they please, especially when I’m paying for it.

    It’s just the principle of the idea. I don’t use sites like these so that someone can decide when my data will be deleted without giving me a viable option for transferring it.

    If Myspace or Facebook decided to pull the plug on profiles (where everyone has them for free), I’m sure it would be a big deal. This case, to me, is even worse because I’m paying for it.

  • http://getsatisfaction.com/netflix/topics/netflix_to_break_homes_by_eliminating_profiles Bscottup

    Profiles allowed each person in the family to get picks, recomendatins. They could chat with other friends to compare movies. I will not be forced to create seperate Netflix accounts for my wife and children. Since Netflix wants to go out of the DVD rental business then I will help you along. Blockbuster costs more but with your choice at ending profiles, I am out of here. I think a lot of folks will join me. http://getsatisfaction.com/netflix/topics/netflix_to_break_homes_by_eliminating_profiles

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  • http://www.dvdvoice.com/ dvdvoice

    Perhaps Netflix has a better solution that profiles?

  • http://www.onegirlsopinion.net Elizabeth

    dvdvoice, I agree with you. I will not be even slightly surprised if they announce in a month or two that the entire reason behind getting rid of profiles was that they were clunky and badly implemented, and they’ve determined a much better system that will be rolling out soon.

    Even if they don’t, I’ll still stick with them. But honestly, the system wasn’t even remotely what it could have been, and was one of the worst ways that it could have achieved the goal.

    As for people assuming that Netflix wants you to get separate accounts for the same household…why in the world would they want that? That’s the most ridiculous reason they could possibly have. They offer 8 at a time rentals, they realize that people’s accounts are for the house, not the individual. I’m sure there are some individuals who want 8 at a time, but they’re few and far between.

    Netflix is probably going to come back in a month or two with something better, and everybody will still be grousing about this.

  • http://www.techconsumer.com Bob Caswell

    Elizabeth, Netflix wanting households to have multiple accounts is not that far fetched. Half of the point of Netflix is the recommendations feature based off your ratings. That totally doesn’t work when you mix two or more different personalities of movies being queued and rated.

    I can hope like the next person that Netflix has something amazing up their sleeves which will be announced shortly… But that doesn’t change the fact that they screwed up in the here and now.

  • KeepNetflixProfiles

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  • http://www.keepnetflixprofiles.org KeepNetflixProfiles

    Let Netflix know that they are making a huge mistake! Take action both online and offline at http://www.keepnetflixprofiles.org!

    Spread the Word!

  • Eric

    I’m in the camp that thinks that Netflix has something good up its sleeve, but their lead PR strategist should be fired – yesterday. What a terrible way to go about it. All this web 2.0ish stuff is about doing things more transparently, and I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to expect Netflix to deal transparently with their customers – the people who made them a household name. While I await a better system, their initial opaque announcement was a horrible approach.

  • http://www.techconsumer.com Bob Caswell

    Eric,

    Amen.

  • http://getsatisfaction.com/netflix/topics/netflix_to_break_homes_by_eliminating_profiles Bscottup

    I am afraid that there will not be any good news on this matter. Netflix saw a way to increase the number of accounts so they went for it. Postage is way up and the USPS has been having problems handling the red mailers. DVD mailing is going extinct. Netflix wants to only sell online movies. If you can do that over your broadband fine but more and more broadband services are charging for heavy use.

  • http://www.techconsumer.com Paul Ellis

    While I don’t think multiple profiles (or any other similar feature) is coming back, I doubt it is as dire as that. Netflix is preparing for (or creating) a future without physical media, but they Netflix doesn’t want “to only sell online movies.” That is like saying Microsoft online wants to have web properties because they have MSN and Live.

    Netflix and the Post Office will (if they haven’t already) worked out the mailing situation. You can guarantee that the USPS wants Netflix’s business (~$300 Million per year).

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  • http://www.dmnews.com/Netflix-releases-its-first-direct-from-TV-device/article/110350/ Bscottup
  • Lee Wright

    Why do so many companies, but especially Netflix (or any other born on the Web), choose to communicate with customers in a way that translates into, “We’re canceling something that we know many of love (and that doesn’t cost us much of anything to maintain), and we’re not going to tell you why. In fact, we have such contempt for you that that we’re going to claim we’re giving you a reason (“this change will help us continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers”) but the reason makes so little sense that even a child would understand that they’re being lied to and called “stupid” to their face.”