I’m sure you’ve all heard of Netflix, the online movie rental service. In case you haven’t, I’ll explain how it works. You pick a number of movies that you’d like to see. Netflix sends you 3 of those movies at a time (this is the default plan). They mail them to you along with return envelopes (with prepaid postage). You send those movies back whenever you feel like it (no late fees) and when they receive one of your movies back, they send another from your list (queue). To top it off, it costs only $17.99 per month regardless how many movies you get.
This model is so popular and successful that Blockbuster introduced their own similar plan. It’s worth checking out because the main differences between the two services is that Blockbuster offers two free in-store rentals per month (including games). It also costs 50 cents less at $17.49.
Up until recently, I brushed off the service. Offhand, I couldn’t think of even a couple movies that I wanted to see. How could I possibly get my money’s worth? Even if I could find enough movies to make it worthwhile, how can I effectively browse for movies? I can’t walk down the aisles after all.
A single feature of Netflix (and I assume of Blockbuster, maybe someone can confirm) makes those non-issues. That is its excellent recommendation feature. These recommendations aren’t made based upon what you rent. It’s based upon how you rate movies. As you browse the site, you mark movies on a one to five star scale. You can also mark them “No opinion” or “Not interested”. Based upon these ratings, it will start to recommend movies, which is indicated by a little star. If you are curious as to why a movie was recommended, it will reference which movie ratings you set that suggest that you will enjoy that movie. Within minutes, you will have recommendations tailored to you. My recommendations reminded me of movies I wanted to watch and had simply forgotten about.
You can also manipulate your queue, reordering the movies that you want. It naturally pulls the next available movie should one of your top three be out or not released yet. Just to give some perspective, I had only one or two movies that I could think of to rent. By the time I finished playing with the website for the first time, my queue had 20 movies in it. They even feature TV series DVDs, which are an easy way to pad your queue.
There are two other things that Netflix a winner for me. Their website is fast and friendly. It’s not overly ornate (as Blockbuster’s site is). I like a nice, simple design. The other thing is their complete use of RSS. They have personalized member feeds for:
- Your Queue
- Your Activity
- Your Recommendations
All of which make it easy to monitor your account. You can also subscribe to an Overall Top 100 list, as well as category top 25 lists, new releases, and their resident reviewer’s list. If you need even more ways to pick, they offers (non-RSS) lists by a variety of reviewers and awards winners.
I’m sold already, and I haven’t even gotten my first shipment. Imagine how happy I’ll be when I actually start getting my movies.