Imagine you enter a departmental store. Say, Shopper’s Stop… or Lifestyle.
You move towards the men’s clothing section. You start looking at the shirts and pick up one. Suddenly, out of nowhere materializes a friendly-looking salesperson. He starts rattling the details of the shirt you picked up, right up to the last detail.
You clearly weren’t expecting it, but you are a polite person and just look at him… well, politely, not sure what to tell him.
You move to another shirt and are now eyeing it. Friendly salesperson notices your eyes hovering a particular shirt, and starts his talk about it.
Now, you are a bit annoyed and tell him politely that you’d like to do this on your own, and if need be, you will reach out to him for help. Suprisingly, he tells you, “That’s not possible Sir. I’ve been instructed to follow and talk about any and every product you eye or touch”.
Improbable? Well, that’s exactly what Netflix does, to every single user, with autoplay trailer/previews when you are browsing and make the blunder of hovering over one title for more than a second!
And worse – Netflix does not have an option to turn it off! By design, they assume that every user, by default, WANTS to see these previews.
This flies in the face of a consistent backlash over autoplay videos on social media platforms and websites, but considering Netflix’s penchant for data crunching, I’m sure they have enough data to justify continuing this annoyance.
These video previews were launched in December 2016. During the launch announcement, Stephen Garcia, director of product innovation at Netflix told Fast Company that this is intended to mimic conventional TV. When you switch on TV and surf channels, you are automatically shown, with moving video and audio, whatever is playing on those channels as you move between them. So, to have a silent experience as you surf, is incongruent, Stephen said then.
This is fascinatingly misguided at many levels. Conventional TV is not on-demand. You need to watch whatever is playing, at that time. Netflix is an on-demand video delivery platform that thrives on user choice.
I thought I may be the only one to find this annoying and intrusive. So I searched Google to find ways to switch this setting off since I couldn’t find any myself. And then I noticed many, many people, across years fighting with Netflix on the same issue!
This includes superstars, like director Rian Johnson, who directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the just-released Knives Out that’s playing to great reviews!
It includes a Twitter handle dedicated to this noble cause, called Stop Autopreview.
There’s also a Change.org petition that has since been closed because Netflix couldn’t care any lesser.
It also includes many online media outlets literally begging Netflix to stop this.
Now, I completely understand that for those who think is feature is useful, it is bound to be massively helpful. I won’t discount the fact that for many, this is going to be useful. But if there are enough and more people complaining about the fact that this is set by default to all users, and not an option, that too for paying customers, that is a blot on the Netflix user experience. Consider the fact that only those who pay for Netflix get this feature. We have already paid for the service. Netflix doesn’t really need to hard-sell anything anymore because we’re already sold.
I don’t understand Netflix’s belligerence in enforcing this feature to all users. And the refusal to give a setting to turn it off.
In the shopping experience, you get a choice to tell the salesperson what you feel, and stop what he assumes is helpful and what you think is badgering. That a software platform doesn’t let you stop autoplay videos is utterly baffling and terrible user experience.