Stars are gone and "Thumbs," as Netflix calls its new, simple review system, have arrived. Last month, the initial news of the change left us feeling a little disappointed. For example: What are you supposed to do if you want to leave a "meh" review? Vote thumbs down, even though you don't really feel negatively about the show?
But in a post announcing the switch, Netflix reasons that making a "yes, I like this" or "no, I don't really like this" decision is a good thing. "Netflix has had star ratings for much of our history, but we’ve learned through over a year of testing that while we’ve used stars to help you personalise your suggestions, many of our members are confused about what they do," explains Cameron Johnson, Netflix's director of product innovation, in the post.
Johnson explains that when we use star ratings elsewhere, such as on sites like Yelp or Modcloth, those reviews are usually intended to help other users in their decision-making. Didn't like the service at that burger place? Give it two or three stars. In those cases, the overall star average can help you know if you should make that dinner reservation or not. But the average isn't so ideal when it comes to personalised movie suggestions.
Although stars always represented a title's compatibility with your viewing behaviour, and not its popularity and quality, some users interpreted them as the latter and used them as such. "In contrast, when people see thumbs, they know that they are used to teach the system about their tastes with the goal of finding more great content," Johnson says. "That’s why when we tested replacing stars with thumbs we saw an astounding 200% increase in ratings activity."
Netflix compares "Thumbs" to the swipe interface of dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. The thumbs up, which indicates that you'd like to see more shows and movies like the one you just watched, will contribute to a new % Match that shows up for every title on Netflix. % Match is algorithmically determined based on your watching behaviour (not any other Netflix users'), meaning that it is personalised to you.
Think of % Match as your personal streaming concierge, there to find you the shows that you'll enjoy. Fingers crossed it'll deliver the perfect match every time.