Netflix is following in the footsteps of Facebook – or, if you prefer, Siskel & Ebert – by scrapping its traditional star ratings for a simple thumbs up / thumbs down rating.
The change, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, will get rid of the old star rating format altogether, which means that you’ll no longer be able to give shows and movies a score out of five. Instead, you’ll be able to recommend or not recommend something, in the manner of Facebook’s traditional like/dislike binary feedback.
Netflix VP of product Todd Yellin announced the upcoming change on Thursday at a press briefing in California. The reason behind the change is, of course, data: split testing by Netflix’s research team found that thumb-based ratings encouraged more people to leave feedback, increasing user engagement and also, arguably, increasing the accuracy of the streaming service’s user-based scores.
“We are addicted to the methodology of A/B testing,” Yellin said. The result was that thumbs got 200 per cent more ratings than the traditional star-rating feature,” Yellin explained.
The accuracy is particularly notable when it comes to the type of films: while Netflix once relied entirely upon scores out of five when it began to personalise and recommend titles to customers, it found that ratings were skewed. Even with 10 billion five-star ratings awarded and more than half of users rating more than 50 titles, people tended to give higher scores to serious documentaries and three stars to more lightweight movies – but still watched the latter more anyway.
“We made ratings less important because the implicit signal of your behavior is more important,” added Yellin.
However, it will not dismiss the data it’s already gathered, with previous star ratings still used to help personalise the profiles of individual users. The stars, though, will no longer appear. Instead, a new dating app-style feature will be introduced, showing a percentage score suggesting how good a match a title is to the user – a show with a close match to a person’s tastes might get a 98 per cent, for example. A show will less than a 50 per cent match, though, won’t display a percentage at all.
What do you think of Netflix’s new idea? Thumbs up or thumbs down?