Monday , January 18 2021

All I want for Christmas is a length-based search option on Netflix

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Gadgets for humans

Please Netflix, I’ve been a good boy

Jingle bells, snow, and all that jazz. It’s the holiday season, which only means one thing: binge-watching.

As we snuggle up on our trusty ol’ couch and fire up Netflix to drown out the voices of our beloved family, we’re yet again faced with a question that’s plagued us since the dawn of human existence: what the hell should I watch?

Searching for the right content, the perfect piece of wondrous cinema for this exact occasion is a tricky endeavor, no matter how good Netflix’s recommendations have become. Also, the thing about recommendations is that we know they only scratch the surface of Netflix’s vast archives. So we’re always left wondering whether there might be something better to watch ‘in the back.’

Of course, Netflix knows this, so it’s lovingly provided us with a few different options — such as only browsing through TV shows or movies and searching by titles, genre, and people. Surely that’s enough to make us all happy and not throw a fit over inconsequential app features?

No!

This holiday season we deserve something better, so I’m pleading on behalf of all humankind: please Netflix, please give us a length-based search option!

You and I both know why a search option for how long it takes to watch the content is so important, but let me lay out the situation for the stuffy Netflix execs reading this.

Most of Netflix’s recommendation tricks — autoplaying, top trending, etc. — seem to revolve around getting us to start watching as fast as humanly possible to fight today’s viewer’s staunchest foe: FOMO.

The downside of having such a vast treasure trove of choice is the gnawing uncertainty of whether you’ve picked the wrong movie — thereby wasting your whole evening on just slight enjoyment instead of amazing entertainment.

But you can’t really ever solve FOMO. You’re always going to have millions of people waste hours trying to search content, starting and stopping movies, until they find just the right one — which never happens.

However, I believe you can steer people into making a decision they’re happy with — without forcing content on them with autoplay — using the only thing they know for certain about their content needs for the evening: the length.

Most of us sit down with an idea of how long we’re going to spend on the couch that evening (even though it might be a lie) so providing us with the option to search based on that just makes economic sense.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a movie pop up in my recommendations that I really want to see — but then grimace at its 2+ hour run-time. ‘Some later time,’ I tell myself and then look for a more fitting movie for the time I’ve got left. Then suddenly I realize I’ve wasted way too much time on searching and just end up rewatching the same sitcom for the millionth time…

So, dear Netflix, if you care about us and the spirit of Christmas at all, you’ll give us categories or the option to search for content ‘under 30 minutes’, ‘under 1 hour’, and ‘under 2 hours’ — and make all of humanity’s dreams come true.

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Published December 24, 2020 — 07:00 UTC

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