Starting Wednesday, Netflix watchers will have a simpler choice for rating their favorite stuff: thumbs up or thumbs down?
The streaming media service rolled out changes to its ratings system, replacing the five-star system with streamlined ratings to improve recommendations users receive and eliminate confusion about how ratings work.
Cameron Johnston, director of product innovation at Netflix, says the star system is used often at sites like Amazon or Yelp, where the overall rating is based on the average of everyone who reviewed a product or business. In some ways, users are rating as would a critic.
"They’re trying to help out everyone else potentially trying that product or service," said Johnston. "They don’t expect to get better results."
Johnston says the thumbs up or thumbs down ratings will help Netflix users understand ratings are meant to tell the service what movies and TV shows you like. "People intuitively understand I’m teaching the system about what my tastes are to get better suggestions in the future," he said.
The idea behind thumbs up or thumbs down is this: the easier it is to rate a TV show or movie, the more likely you will rate more frequently, leading to a better set of recommendations. When Netflix tested the ratings system before launch, Johnston says they saw a 200% jump in ratings activity.
The thumbs down also has a purpose: removing shows from your recommended list that appear repeatedly, even though the user has no interest in watching. Ratings users added through the star system will still be used by Netflix to help choose recommendations.
The ratings lead to another feature called Percent Match, which recommends shows through a percentage, using the ratings you've already added to the system. For example, you may see a TV series with a message there's a 90% chance you'll like it.
Another potential benefit to the switch: as recommendations improve, users focus more on watching content instead of exploring. "We want people to not have to spend a lot of time browsing," says Johnston.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.