If you’ve ever browsed Netflix on something other than a phone, you’ve encountered one of its most contentious functions: homepage autoplay.
Introduced in 2016, the feature works like this: If a user hovers over any show or movie, Netflix automatically plays that program’s trailer or a selected clip–or, in some cases, just straight-up starts it from the beginning. And unlike autoplay functions on platforms like YouTube and Twitter, which mute the videos, Netflix’s plays things at full volume.
Back when homepage autoplay was introduced, Netflix’s director of product innovation, Stephen Garcia, said the goal was to “make it so people actually have to browse less before they find something that they feel confident in watching.”
That may sound good in theory, but a number of Netflix users quickly made it clear they were less than enthused by the feature in practice–and their inability to turn it off.
Netflix went four years without offering an option to appease unhappy viewers. But no longer. Users can now disable homepage autoplay in their account settings.
Some people find this feature helpful. Others not so much.
— Netflix US (@netflix) February 6, 2020
“We’ve heard the feedback loud and clear–members can now control whether or not they see autoplay previews on Netflix,” the streamer tweeted this afternoon. It also noted that, “Some people this feature helpful. Others not so much.”
To disable autoplay, a user must log in to Netflix and hit Manage Profiles. Click a profile to edit it, and you’ll see an option that offers “Autoplay previews while browsing on all devices.” Uncheck the box next to it, and voilà.
As Variety points out, Netflix is already deep in globally testing another feature that seems aimed at reducing users’ browsing time. Called Watch Now, the function appears as a button on the profile selection page (the first page a user sees when they open Netflix). If a user hits that button, Netflix will automatically play the next episode of the show they’re currently watching, something from their “to watch” list, or something Netflix’s algorithms thinks they’ll like.
It’s also worth noting here that Netflix recently changed its definition of what constitutes a “view.” Originally, a user had to watch at least 70% of a program for their view to count; now, Netflix counts just two minutes of watching as a view. Making that change last month instantly boosted Netflix’s view counts by 35%. With browsing autoplay turned on, it’s possible some views can come from two-minute clips played on the homepage. Enabling users to turn off autoplay may lessen the potential for viewership figures to end up inflated.
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