Is Netflix’s New Ratings System Too Simple or Just Simple Enough? (Video)

The streaming service unveils a “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” system, but users have mixed feelings on it

Last Updated: April 5, 2017 @ 10:11 AM

Your Netflix is going to look a little different starting Wednesday thanks to a new ratings system that offers viewers two options: “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

Netflix described the new system as being similar to dating apps. You give a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” to a show or film, and Netflix can calculate whether a recommendation is a good match. It’s meant to simplify the process.

“Finding love is hard. Finding your next binge doesn’t have to be,” the company┬ásays in a video announcing the new feature.

There’s a lot of people who don’t like the new system (just take a look at the YouTube comments on the video), but it makes a lot of sense. Netflix’s ratings system has never been akin to a Rotten Tomatoes score or an IMDB rating — it’s all about attempting to show the likelihood of its customers liking a particular thing. The stars made that more complicated, and it was always unclear why Netflix would give something the rating it did.

Netflix confirms this, noting in the blog post that it found users were confused about what the star ratings meant. On other apps and services, stars represent an overall average among all users. On Netflix, it does not and has never been a marker of universal popularity.

“Netflix has had star ratings for much of our history, but we’ve learned through over a year of testing that while we’ve used stars to help you personalize your suggestions, many of our members are confused about what they do,” Director of Product Innovation Cameron Johnson said in the post.

With the new scale, the streaming service hopes that users will be more knowledgeable of where recommendations come from and will therefore use them more.

“When people see thumbs, they know that they are used to teach the system about their tastes with the goal of finding more great content,” Johnson continued. “That’s why when we tested replacing stars with thumbs we saw an astounding 200% increase in ratings activity.”

Some users have noted the new system might be too simple, claiming it doesn’t take into account different genres and the minutiae that make up a person’s taste.

“I don’t like it because it’s too binary,” said one user in the comments of the YouTube video. “Think of it this way: I like The ‘Fast and the Furious’ movies, and I like ‘The Godfather,’ but according to this system, I like them both equally.”

We’ll have to see in the coming months what the new system does to people’s recommendations and if it manages to get around this hurdle. Will it be too simple or just simple enough?