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Here’s why Netflix is killing off its user reviews (hint: they’re worthless)

Here’s why Netflix is killing off its user reviews (hint: they’re worthless)
[Photo: courtesy of Netflix]

Last week, CNet reported that Netflix is eliminating user reviews from its website. The ability to post new reviews will go away by July 30, and the ability to read existing ones will follow in mid-August.

Netflix spokeswoman Smita Saran said the review feature has “seen declining usage over time,” which makes sense given that it’s only available buried behind a few menu clicks on Netflix’s website. Now that computers make up just 15% of Netflix viewing globally–tied with mobile devices but well behind TVs at 70%–it’s safe to assume many viewers don’t even realize those reviews exist.

Not that you’d want to dwell on them anyway. Beyond the usual run-on sentences and empty superlatives, a quick look through Netflix’s catalog brings up plenty of toxic, racist, and sexist reviews, not to mention outright review bombing. And while some observers have bemoaned the separate-but-related demise of star ratings on Netflix, a lot of these reviews tend to be either one or five stars.

Netflix could certainly do more to help subscribers sift through the service’s vast catalog without relying on algorithms. Perhaps it could allow users to tag reviews with genres or attributes, the way Valve does for Steam games, or find some way to bring reviews onto the site in a more curated way. But as it stands, reviews only distract from Netflix’s goal of having you spend more time watching instead of browsing.

Netflix seems to have realized it’s better off without them.

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