Keeping up with pop culture is hard. It used to be that you just needed to catch a two-hour movie in the theater the week of release. Now, in the age of whole seasons of TV being dropped on Netflix at once, you need to mainline 10 hours of a show before being able to decipher the memes on Twitter. There just aren’t enough hours in the evening!
Which is why, as a shoo-in for the shortlist of the greatest designs of 2019 thus far, I present to you Netflix Hangouts. Designed by Mschf—the same internet design firm that brought us a Times New Roman variant to pad out college essays—it’s a Chrome plug-in that lets you watch Netflix at work, by hiding it inside a simulated Google Hangout chat.
You load Netflix, start a show of choice, and then tap on the plug-in button on the top of your browser window. Suddenly, three talking heads appear on windows on your screen, while Stranger Things or Queer Eye shrinks to the bottom right window, as if Eleven or the Fab Five are just a couple extra members of your conference call.
The talking heads are each on a silent, 40-second loop. And as lead designer Ben Rosen tells us, the rest of the page’s interface was completely designed from scratch. Despite featuring convincing facsimiles for Google’s own screen share and mute buttons, along with its omnipresent three-dot “kebab” menu, it’s all bespoke work. (When you tap these buttons, nothing happens. And no information is sent to Mschf in any part of the process, I’m told.)
Truth be told, it’s probably a better prank than a practical way to watch Netflix at work. Sooner or later, your boss will realize that Bobby Berk should not be on that conference call. That said, a few moments into using Netflix Hangouts, and you might think to yourself, “Jeez, this could actually be kind of cool if I could connect with my friends at work, and we all watched Netflix together.”
“That’d be super interesting!” says Rosen when I float the idea. “It’s like that, but for lonely people.”