My first impressions of Netflix

Yesterday I signed up for Netflix. Before now, I had used it at other people’s homes, but I had not signed up myself because I barely watch series/films at home. But I finally caved in last night, and now I am officially impressed.

Always using my Android tablet, I created an account, then downloaded their app where I browsed their selection and watched my first show. The process went flawlessly, and I have commend them for the experience that they have managed to deliver, at least to a first timer like me. After this start, there are only three minor things, and a relatively major one, that I want to comment on.

First, I found funny that they ask users straight away what kind of content they want to watch: drama, comedy, horror, etc. I skipped that part because I just don’t know! I want to watch good shows regardless of their genre. I understand they want me to start feeding their suggestions engine, but I don’t want to restrict my choices just yet.

The second thing was that, at the beginning, I feared that a Facebook account was required to register, as it used to be the case with Spotify. Fortunately, after reading a bit more I saw this was not the case. I am definitely not going to link this up with my Facebook account. I often wonder why I have a Facebook account in the first place, as I rarely use it, but that’s another story for another day.

Third: I was also asked if I was going to use Netflix on (if I remember correctly) my PC, my Mac or my games console. Funnily enough this list doesn’t include tablets, even though I was signing up from one.

But anyway, I don’t think the above are too important. I’m going to move on to the “relatively major” thing, that I must say almost put me off from Netflix altogether: the permissions required by the Android app. Why on Earth does the Netflix app require permission to:

I am very concerned about my privacy, and I rarely let these things slip in. I let this one in because I really wanted to try the service.

The phone identity I assume has to do with limiting the number of devices that access the same account, so I don’t give my login details to my friends to use Netflix for free. I do think this is complete bollocks, but I guess this has to do with their contracts with the studios.

The “sensitive log data” permission… I have no clue why that is needed. I will come back to this and see what the repercussions are and what I can do about it, but I am honestly uneasy about this. I hear there ways to get better control of apps’ permissions, so I’ll have to take a look at that at a later moment.

And one bonus comment now. While writing this, I logged onto the Netflix website with my laptop, and clicked on a show. I was mortified to see that the player requires Microsoft Silverlight. I have been avoiding to install it since it first came up, and I’d like to stay clear of it for the foreseeable future.

I understand their contracts with the studios require them to use DRM, and this cannot be achieved with HTML5. I also realise that it is a bit funny that I would not have complained if it had required Flash instead. I like Flash (not) as much as I like Silverlight (not), but the first one crept up into our computers long time ago, so I am not so fussed about it now (and I block it on my browsers anyway).

But enough of negativity for now. The Silverlight problem I’ll have to accept, and the Android permissions problem… I’ll see what I can do. Apart from these two points (and the other minor ones above), I feel I must congratulate the Netflix team for delivering such an awesome experience. This is the future. I am glad that finally somebody was able to pull off something like this. This is the best way to combat piracy: to offer a better alternative.