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Netflix Dumping Remote Disc Management Apps

21 Jun, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Company removing remote disc queue controls to broaden international streaming functionality

Netflix’s apparent love-hate relationship with physical discs took another turn when the service announced it would discontinue features that allow users to manage their disc rental queue from third-party devices.

In a June 17 post, Daniel Jacobson, director of engineering with the Los Gatos, Calif.-based rental service, said the changes would only affect its open “application programming interface,” or API.

Netflix, like many Internet companies, offers an open API platform that allow third-party software developers to create apps enabling subscribers to navigate the Netflix website more easily from mobile phones, tablet computers, video game consoles, Blu-ray Disc players and the like.

Going forward, physical media subscribers will be limited to managing their rental queues directly from a PC or Mac.

With Netflix aggressively transitioning from an online disc rental platform to streaming company, including bowing service in Canada and (soon) other locations, it claims it needs to make room for new streaming apps.

“This change clears the path for us to add new features to the API to support international catalogs and languages,” Jacobson wrote. “Eventually, we plan to expand our public developer community to other regions, allowing developers from around the world to build even more apps and sites powered by the Netflix API.”

Jacobson was quick to point out that the changes would not impact shipments of DVD and Blu-ray movies.

As with other recent changes incorporated by Netflix, including hiding its vaunted movie star ratings and related information from direct view on the page, the blogosphere reacted negatively.

“So apps and such that manage DVD queues … won't work anymore? If so, bravo on making your service worse and worse to use as you go,” wrote Celicynd.

Other comments questioned why expanding international streaming support would have to impact physical disc management in the United States.

“I still pay the same Netflix subscription fee every month, so I don't see why my service should be degraded so you can support new customers,” wrote Id.

The changes come at a time when Netflix senior management has made efforts to showcase renewed vocal support for physical media — after years of all but ignoring it. CEO Reed Hastings, CFO David Wells and chief content officer Ted Sarandos in recent well-orchestrated mea culpas reiterated their devotion to physical media.

“Over the next couple of months (and couple of years) you’ll see us putting more focus on [disc],” Sarandos told an investor group earlier this month.

A renaissance with physical media also includes returning ads to mailers — a practice Netflix had abandoned.

“Disgusting,” wrote subscriber Emory LaserWolf. “Oh Blockbuster, I'm coming home.”


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