Netflix recently reintroduced profiles so now each household member can get their own recommendations, recently watched items, and instant queue rather than being forced to share the same polluted profile. This is an awesome win for Netflix customers but it’s been bugging me that they didn’t do this sooner; it’s such an obvious feature that it should have been built as soon as Netflix realized that multiple family members would be sharing their account.

The cynic in me says they waited 5 years to bring profiles back in order to force family members to sign up for additional Netflix accounts if they wanted to keep their account history private and the only reason they enabled this functionality now is that they’ve either already captured the bulk of these additional accounts or that customers have been asking for this for so long that ignoring the requests makes Netflix look callous. Even now, the profile functionality remains open with all users of a Netflix account being able to access any of the profiles, forcing household members who value their privacy to sign up for additional accounts.

I may be completely wrong and Netflix is correct that making profiles more complicated will cause significantly more usability problems for the majority of users while only benefiting a tiny percentage of customers that care about private profiles. Simplicity is critical for the success of a consumer product but I’m skeptical when user experience and simplicity are used as excuses to avoid a simple feature change. In this case it could be as simple as adopting a model similar to parental controls which are set via the web interface for each profile.

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