Netflix Preparing New Run at Social Media Features

Two months ago, Netflix pulled the plug on its community features. Now, inspired by the gospel of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, the company is getting ready to dive into “social” again, but with a whole new mindset.

Just two months after Netflix pulled the plug on its community features, it turns out the movie-and-TV subscription service is preparing to take a new run at social. At Mashery’s The Business of APIs Conference in San Francisco yesterday, Mike Hart, who has been the company’s director of engineering for APIs, announced he was taking on a new role: director of engineering for social.

But it sounds like the new social strategy is different from the old one. The one that just shut down had a more limited vision, embedded in ideas of community from a previous era of the Internet. That strategy simply sought to enable Netflix customers to share their recommendations and reviews. According to executives, the features never really took off. The new strategy, however, is inspired by the fundamental shift that social networks like Facebook are fomenting in society today, changing both how companies market their products as well as how they conceive of the kinds of value they create for customers.

“It’s very nascent, as of a couple days ago,” Hart tells Fast Company. “We’re entering a bunch of new markets, internationally. There will be less brand recognition, less word of mouth. So viral acquisition strategies have the potential to gain for us endless new markets.”

Hart also said that the vision that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been evangelizing recently, of a world in which every industry must fundamentally become social or risk becoming irrelevant, is also influencing Netflix’s decision to take a new stab at social.

“[Zuckerberg] firmly believes that all the surviving services, the leaders in their spaces in the next decade, will be social through-and-through,” Hart said. “We think it’s worth a bet to invest in that kind of vision to realize bigger gains for the business as well as to protect us from potential disrupters entering our space and leveraging those types of technologies.”

Netflix currently operates in the U.S. and Canada. Hart declined to elaborate on what other markets the company might be eyeing, nor when it plans to start expanding overseas. In April, the company advertised for a Director of Product Management, International.

Meanwhile, taking over Hart’s role as director of engineering for APIs is Daniel Jacobson, who moved to the company last month after spending 11 years building out NPR’s application programming interfaces (API) and app ecosystem. APIs are the software infrastructure that lets companies share data that other companies can use to build apps.

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