Netflix Is Abandoning Star Ratings In Favor Of Facebook-Like Thumbs

Stars are sooo yesterday. Thumbs have become “the language of the global internet,” says Netflix VP Todd Yellin.

Netflix Is Abandoning Star Ratings In Favor Of Facebook-Like Thumbs
Photo: courtesy of Netflix Photo: courtesy of Netflix

The stars are fading at Netflix.


Starting in a few weeks, the global streaming service is introducing a thumbs-up, thumbs-down system of rating its shows and movies. The new, Facebook-like icon replaces the five-star rating system whereby subscribers are given the choice to express how they feel about content–and how content is surfaced in their profile. Stars will still exist on content that subscribers have already rated, but starting in early April members will no longer be given the option to rate with stars.

“Five stars feels very yesterday now,” Todd Yellin, Netflix’s VP of product innovation, told a group of journalists at the company’s Los Gatos headquarters on Thursday. That system “really projects what you think you want to tell the world. But we want to move to a system where it’s really clear, when members rate, that it’s for them, and to keep on making the Netflix experience better and better.”

Yellin gave the example of an Adam Sandler movie that someone might give three stars to, but then watch repeatedly, versus a foreign-language documentary that might receive five stars but the person watches only once. In that case, they’d “be rating for the quality and what you’d want to project out there,” Yellin said, versus what they actually spend time watching.

Netflix began A/B testing the new, thumbs-up-thumbs-down model in 2016 with hundreds of thousands of new members around the world. “We sat back for a couple of months and observed,” Yellin said. When the data came in, it astounded Netflix: Ratings on the service went up 200% with thumbs.

Once the system rolls out, the thumb icon will be displayed under each Netflix title. Users don’t have to use it, but if they do, their preference will be factored into a new percent match that Netflix is also introducing. The feature will show how good a fit a title is for a user. For example, high matches may receive an 88%, whereas a less ideal match might get a 60%. Content that receives less than a 50% match won’t be displayed.

With a nod to Facebook, Yellin said that thumbs “have become the language of the global internet.” The new icon is also part of Netflix’s own global expansion. As the company continues its international ambitions, it is working hard to fine-tune and improve its UI and discovery process. In December, Netflix replaced still-art previews with video clips to promote content.

About the author

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety.