Netflix has achieved worldwide cultural hegemony to the point that we forget that it was once a semi-foundering DVD delivery service that had to fight off industry giants like Blockbuster. Mostly, that's because of their early and aggressive adaptation of streaming technology that they then harnessed to deliver their own scripted content.
That content is behind their continued domination, but all the content in the world is useless if nobody can find it. So their recommendation system, which controls what you see on your menu page, is maybe their most-important innovation.
Netflix opened their offices for Netflix Lab Day and pulled back the curtain a tiny bit on what makes the streaming giant keep going. Netflix VP of Product Todd Yellin told Variety that they used to tailor recommendations based on geographic location. The thinking being that people in Germany might prefer different content from those in South America.
“We find that to be greater and greater nonsense, and we are disproving it every day,” Yellin said.
Instead, Netflix has pivoted to something they're calling taste communities. They have identified 1,300 of them, which are codified using only viewing behaviour. You probably don't belong to just one community, but probably several, and all are worldwide. Yellin allows to Variety that German comedians may be more popular in Germany, but find American audiences as well.
“A big part of personalisation is finding taste communities globally,” Yellin said.
Maybe Netflix should launch a dating service. They already have a creepy amount of info on your taste, along with the taste of all your exes with whom you've ever shared your password, and all their exes that have ever gotten them to log into their smart TVs with your password. Insane. Anyways, just a thought.