NetFlix has finally decided to do the sensible thing, which is to not discontinue its Profiles feature. The company earlier this month decided to discontinue the Profiles feature. The profiles feature allows users to create separate profiles for their children or spouses in order to maintain different queues for their households.
When Netflix decided to discontinue the feature they quoted simplicity and ease of use as the sole motivator behind it. To quote from their blog:
Please know that the motivation is solely driven by keeping our service as simple and as easy to use as possible. Too many members found the feature difficult to understand and cumbersome, having to consistently log in and out of the website.
Continuing to maintain the profiles feature for the passionate few who use it (including myself) distracts us from the mission of presenting to all our members the easiest way to find the best titles for them from the 100k plus on DVD and the 10k plus available instantly.
Netflix’s initial assessment was that only a handful of users actually use the feature. However, this handful lot was very vocal indeed. These people used the feature from maintaining parental controls to ensuring that every one in the house gets to view movies according to his/her own taste. The feature was so important to these users that they weighed in, and did so in a big way. The response was overwhelmingly negative ranging from threats to leave the service altogether in favor of Blockbuster to angry posts and rants on forums.
The result was obvious, Netflix did the right thing by announcing that the feature will not be discontinued. According to them:
I have good news to report: we will keep the feature with no plans to discontinue it. We were persuaded by the well-reasoned, sincere responses of loyal members who very much value this feature. As someone who enjoys helping his four-year-old daughter manage her one-DVD-at-a-time, G-rated sub-account, I identified with these thoughtful pleas to maintain Profiles.
Because of an ongoing desire to make our website easier to use, we believed taking a feature away that is only used by a very small minority would help us improve the site for everyone. Listening to our members, we realized that users of this feature often describe it as an essential part of their Netflix experience. Simplicity is only one virtue and it can certainly be outweighed by utility.
Having watched this drama unfold, I get reminded that sometimes a little feature means a lot to the users and at other times, its just one feature that can trigger the tipping point for a service.