And yet, there's clearly a small contingent of people who are nostalgic for the way things used to be. There's even a Twitter account called "Stop Autopreview" that's devoted to advocating around this issue, encouraging users to make complaints to Netflix. The account currently has only 231 followers and a Change.org petition it has RT'ed asking Netflix to make auto-preview a "user controlled software setting" only has 394 signees. That's not a lot of people. For some context, a Change.org petition asking the company to renew the cancelled Kathy Bates comedy Disjointed has over 5,000 signatures, and there are 125 million global Netflix subscribers.
As these users howl into the digital void, Netflix continues to view video previews as the future of how it promotes its shows, movies, documentaries, and comedy specials. Earlier this month, the company announced it would be adding 30-second mobile previews to its iOS app, with plans to expand to Android soon. These previews, which are vertically cropped for your phone, do not autoplay. Instead, they're more like Snapchat or Instagram stories where you can swipe to the next preview. It's part of a mobile strategy that includes phone-friendly content, like 15-minute stand-up specials that will arrive on the service soon.
If the video previews are actually decreasing the browsing time of the average user, does that mean you're getting a "better" experience? It's possible critics of the feature miss the relative tranquility of gazing on your personal Netflix queue like it was a vast desert of options. As one of the remaining loyal users of Netflix's DVD.com, I still find comfort in mindlessly pursuing and reordering my (possibly unhealthy) queue of 498 movies. (That's in addition to a list of 118 "saved" movies that are currently unavailable by mail -- I have a problem, I know.) Staring at all the titles, the DVD, art, and the accompanying star rating is oddly calming. There's no music playing. No videos popping up. No need to keep moving. You get to luxuriate in your own selection process. Spending an extended amount of time looking at the queue feels like a retro experience.
It also feels like a ghost town.