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Netflix’s new thumbs up, thumbs down rating system is not going over well

Who ever thought the five-star rating system would be missed?

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Netflix finally introduced its new thumbs-up and thumbs-down rating system yesterday and, although the announcement was met with excitement from the company’s subscribers, attitudes have changed upon its release.

The biggest issue stems from subscribers’ inability to tell the difference between a movie that’s acquired thousands of positive likes because it’s popular or if it’s based on merit. Netflix’s new algorithm, which works like most popular online dating services, does try to fix this by introducing a “matching” system that pairs what you’ve liked with films that match your taste. Even then, users are missing the five-star rating system.

“The problem with the thumbs up-thumbs down is that there is now absolutely no difference between ‘I guess I didn't hate this movie’ and ‘This is the greatest movie I've ever seen in my life, and I want to see more like it,’” one Reddit user wrote. “Both movies now get the exact same weight in voting. That means I'll be hesitant to thumbs up movies that I only mildly enjoyed, because I don't want to screw up my ratings.

“This was a problem even with their 5-star system, because 3 stars was ‘Liked it’ and 2 was ‘didn't like it.’ That meant that if I only kinda-sorta enjoyed a movie, I mean, I didn't turn it off, but it wasn't too great, I couldn't rate that anything effectively.”


Other users have mentioned that they used the star-rating system as a way to effectively remove shows, films and specials they were never going to have interest in. One user wrote that he used the rating system to award most stand-up specials a one-star rating whenever Netflix promoted it. It may seem malicious, but he added that it was the best method of letting Netflix’s algorithm know that he wasn’t interested in ever watching a stand-up special. Similarly, many Netflix users pointed out that being able to award all of DC’s films or whatever Disney series were available on the network a five-star rating meant they saw it more often in their feed.

At a press conference earlier this month, Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president of product, said the reason the company was changing over was because the five-star rating system began to feel more antiquated. Ironically, considering what subscribers have been reporting, switching over to a thumbs-up or thumbs-down method of rating in combination with the percentage-based matching system would better users’ results.

“What’s more powerful: you telling me you would give five stars to the documentary about unrest in the Ukraine; that you’d give three stars to the latest Adam Sandler movie; or that you’d watch the Adam Sandler movie ten times more frequently?,” Yellin said, as reported by The Verge.

Netflix did respond to some of the concern brought up by subscribers that they wouldn’t be able to access the ratings they left on movies, shows or specials they’ve watched over the past few years.

The company did just roll out the new algorithm and it appears Netflix is listening to what subscribers are saying, based on the company’s Twitter presence and response to concerns. There is a very good chance results will get better as more information about how people are using the system rolls in and the company’s product department implements changes.

Polygon has reached out to Netflix to see if changes are coming to the system and will update when more information becomes available.