It’s bad enough that the Netflix iPad app is so neutered one cannot even search for a disk-based movie or see one’s disk-based queue. I’ve put it aside as Netflix stubborn drive toward an all-streaming service.
Even though all-streaming is total bunk. The streaming inventory sucks. There is no polite way to say it. It sucks. Everything well-rated and worth watching is only available on disk.
But Netflix’s search UI is just plain ridiculous.
There are three main “categories” offered as tabs at the top of the Netflix home page: “Watch Instantly,” “Just for Kids,” and “DVDs.”
Try searching for “A Turtle’s Tale” in each category tab. Both the “Watch Instantly” and “DVDs” tab return the same results – a combination of disk and streaming results. There is no way to filter the list to show only “Watch Instantly” or only “DVD.” (or for that matter, my favorite would be only Blue-ray.) The good news is that these results show a description and user ratings.
Now try the same search in the “Just for Kids” tab. Totally different results page. Truncated 140-character-like descriptions, no ratings, and no format information. In fact, the ONLY results shows are streaming.
Not that I trust the Netflix reviews, but they help. To evaluate shows in the kids only tab, I have to run IMDb and a movie review site like RogerEbert.com on the side. It’s ridiculous. And if I want to know if “A Turtle’s Tale” is available in DVD or Blue-ray, I have to leave the Kids tab and choose either Watch Instantly or DVD tab then re-execute the search (it is available in DVD).
I enjoy the convenience of Netflix. But I’m finding it more an more tempting to switch to a combination of services like Amazon Prime Videos and Vudu. Why? Because even if I’m really snappy I can only comfortably squeeze in two disk-based movies a month taking into account shipping and my own availability to watch while the disks are actually in my possession. And that’s $10/mo – or $5 per disk. Amazon has movies on-line that Netflix doesn’t have (e.g. “A Christmas Story” ), and Vudu streams new releases in HD and 5.1 surround (Netflix does not stream surround) for the almost the same per-disk price at $6. Even my $25/mo Comcast Limited Basic now streams television programs and movies on-demand.
The future of Netflix is challenged on every front. If they continue to dumb down their interface, making search difficult, reviews obscured, and suppressing media information in an apparent attempt to drive users to their wilted inventory of streaming content, they won’t find this user on their billing list next year.