Writing reviews is dying on Netflix

Thumbs down.
Thumbs down.
Image: Netflix
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Wondering what audiences think of the latest season of Luke Cage or the Netflix movie The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter? You won’t be able to find those reviews on Netflix for much longer.

The streaming-video service will no longer allow people to write reviews for TV shows and movies on its platform, CNET first reported. Netflix will stop allowing users to post written reviews on the site starting July 30. It plans to remove existing reviews by mid-August. The company said in a statement to Quartz that it was removing the feature because people weren’t using it very much.

Elsewhere on the internet—on platforms like Amazon, Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDB—user reviews are crucial to helping customers decide what to buy, eat, or watch. By contrast, users may not even know they can write reviews on Netflix; the feature is only available on the desktop version of the site. The platform, instead, emphasizes its own recommendations for users based on what they and other viewers like them enjoy watching.

The user reviews are currently tucked away in the “Details” tab of the individual title pages on the desktop version of the site. They do not influence Netflix’s personalized recommendations, CNET said. The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter, released in the US July 6, has just 26 reviews at the time of publishing:

Netflix review
Image: Screenshot via Netflix

Early last year, Netflix nixed its star ratings system and replaced it with thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons to simplify and clarify its feedback loop. Some members had used the old star system to measure quality—whether they objectively thought the title was good or bad—like on other platforms, Netflix said at the time. But the stars on Netflix actually measured how much a viewers enjoyed watching a particular title. For example, audiences can think Oscar-winning movies are well made, but still not enjoy watching them, but critical flops like Bright can still be great fun to watch. The thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons were supposed to make it easier for members to indicate which titles they enjoyed.

Netflix uses that feedback to help make personalized recommendations on what to watch. The service now calculates the likelihood that a user will enjoy a particular title and displays the match score alongside its recommendations.

Some have complained that the new system is as confusing as the old one, and leads to poor recommendations or makes it difficult for people to determine on their own what they might want to watch. Confusion about how the written reviews fed into Netflix’s personalized recommendations is partly why it’s scrapping the written reviews now, the company told Quartz.

Customers have been able to review titles on the platform since the early days of Netflix, which launched in 1998. When Netflix was only renting DVDs by mail, customers would submit reviews through the company’s website and check out what others in the “ community” thought about movies like Blade and Six Days, Seven Nightsscreenshots on theInternet Archive’s Wayback Machine from 1999 show.

Next month, members will have to take their written opinions to other platforms like IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes.