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Netflix SiloI love Netflix, but more than once their data policies have forced me to reconsider whether or not I should continue my subscription. You see, I believe that when you rate a movie, the data should belong to you. After all, you were the one that spent the time to input the rating and it’s personal to your tastes. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that once you get past 100 ratings, you can’t even find two rating profiles that are identical.

Netflix on the other hand, seems to feel that they own your ratings data and have guarded it closely. This wouldn’t be so important, if Netflix was the only movie site out there, but because they refuse to implement many web 2.0 features, there are many other movie sites that consumers may prefer.

Because I have memberships with about a dozen of these sites, it has created an awkward and cumbersome situation where I’m forced to to maintain a dozen different sets of ratings, instead of being able to sync them all together. Since even small differences in how you rate a movie can have a big impact on the recommendations that you receive, whoever is able to get a consumer to input the most ratings is given a powerful moat around their subscribers.

For a long time, Netflix kept their silo closed, but about nine months ago, they opened up their API to outside developers. At the time, I saw this as a watershed event because it marked a change in philosophy from one of control to one allowing for innovation, inside or outside of Netflix’s site. If you go their developer site, you’ll see that they still encourage people to use ratings data to create cool apps.

The Netflix API allows developers full access to our catalog of movies and actors, and–when properly authorized–subscriber data, such as queues, ratings, rental history, and reviews.

Regrettably, after opening up this data to outside developers, Netflix has apparently changed their tune and is now trying to take away this feature from their customers. For example, here’s an email I received from,

Hi Davis Freeberg,

Since March, we’ve offered an option to connect your Netflix account with Jinni. Until now, an optional feature has been importing ratings, so Jinni can quickly learn about your taste and recommend only movies you haven’t seen. Unfortunately, Netflix has demanded that we remove the import ratings feature. If you already imported your ratings, they will stay on Jinni.

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Cooliris browser plug-in shopping shoes firefox

One of my favorite Web apps got an upgrade recently, and this morning I had a chance to test it out. Cooliris has added a browser plug-in to replace the default full-screen app launch it’s had to date. I’ve played with Cooliris on and off for the past ten months, and while I love the interface, it rarely occurs to me to launch the application for browsing. That could change now that there’s no separate application to launch, just a Firefox (or IE, or soon-to-be Safari) tab.

ReadWriteWeb covered the update in detail, which includes other features like hyperlinked metadata for Flickr. However, perhaps the one note left out is how this (hopefully) sets up Cooliris for integration with new sites. I am firmly convinced that Cooliris has the interface for online shopping. If the technology was officially integrated with, say, Zappos, where someone could click on the nifty Cooliris button to bring up a 3D wall of shoes, I believe awareness of and demand for the app would skyrocket. Not to mention, it could potentially drive new revenue for online vendors. In an Apple iPhone world, where the importance of user interface has been significantly elevated, Cooliris should be in its glory.

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our friends at Last100:


Hulu really hates the TV, PlayStation 3 blocked
Following the Boxee fiasco, the PS3 has become the latest means by which to conveniently watch Hulu content on a television has been blocked. Users who try to visit the site via the PS3’s built-in web browser are being greeted with the message: “Unfortunately, this video is not available on your platform. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Flash 10 coming to smartphones this October? Apple and RIM still missing in action
It seems that Adobe is well on track to deliver a version of Flash 10 for smartphones. Adobe CEO Shantanu Naraye said as much during the company’s latest earnings call, revealing that “multiple partners have already received early versions of this release…”.

Pirate Bay’s YouTube competitor lives on (The Video Bay)
The project was to build a kind of YouTube-esque video streaming site, but one that operates outside of mainstream copyright law. Now we learn that the project, dubbed “The Video Bay”,  lives on.

Nokia testing “long form” video service
Nokia is particularly interested in “kick-starting” the consumption of long-form content on mobiles by utilizing a podcast style delivery method whereby users subscribe to various video feeds, presumably enabling content to be downloaded to the device “over-the-air” rather than being “side-loaded”.

Leaving comments across the blogosphere NewTeeVee


Why Netflix Doesn’t Offer Subtitles or Closed Captions
Netflix’s Chief Product Officer, Neil Hunt, wrote an interesting blog post today about why his company doesn’t offer subtitles or closed captions on its streaming content. Evidently, adding subtitles and closed captions is harder than it looks.

Dave’s response: If Hulu could figure out how to do it, Netflix can. If they didn’t want to re-encode everything, they should have solved this earlier.

A Few Last Moments With the Sony Watchman
My little Flipcam doesn’t like to focus when it’s as up close and personal as it has to get with the tiny Watchman screen, so believe me when I say the picture is great.

Dave’s response: The competing Kodak Zi6 has a macro mode…

Vid-Biz: Zillion TV, ESPN 360, Hammertime
Zillion TV to Offer Some Movies Day-and-Date with DVD for Free; unnamed studio willing to experiment by offering consumers the choice of watching a targeted ad.

Dave’s response: Yeah, but when will ZillionTV be released and for how much?

SAG Overwhelmingly Approves Contract
The new contract also covers material created for new media, which was a sticking point that helped kick off this whole drawn-out negotiation in the first place, and includes residuals for ad-supported movies and TV shows streamed online.

Dave’s response: Wonder what it means for Hulu’s random and incomplete catalog – if anything.

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our friends at Last100:

WD HD Media Player just works
Sometimes a seemingly complex problem requires the simplest of solutions. Case in point is Western Digital’s WD HD Media Player, which provides a near fool-proof way of watching almost any video downloaded from the Internet on the TV. Simply connect it to the television and insert a USB thumb drive or any other mass storage USB device in which your content is stored and you’re good to go.

BBC iPlayer and the Creative Zen X-Fi
The Creative Zen X-Fi has the ability to ’side load’ content downloaded from the BBC’s TV catch-up service, iPlayer. That’s because the Zen supports Windows Media DRM, needed because of the way the BBC licenses content for download so that it will only be playable seven days after broadcast.

Vudu now offering Disney HD movies for purchase on same ‘day and date’ as Blu-ray
This is the first time that Disney has broadly licensed its content in HD for sale through an online video service, beyond one-off offerings or ‘rental-only’, says Vudu. Disney chose to work with Vudu, says the company, “in large part because of the [picture] quality” offered by the service.

YouTube relaunches TV-friendly version of the site
It’s not the first time that YouTube has rolled out a version of the video sharing site designed specifically for viewing on a television but the application’s been given a polish and a new name to boot. Now called ‘YouTube XL‘ the new version of the site features a ‘ten foot’ user interface designed for viewing on a TV or large screen monitor which has the look and feel of a ‘native application’.

We’re getting back to that old saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” with news of Hulu’s possible plans to charge for at least some content.  So one of the biggest advantages (and reasons for putting up with poorer video quality than broadcast/cable) just might be going away. According to an article in, News Corp’s chief digital officer:

envisions a future where at least some of the TV shows and movies on Hulu, the premium video site co-owned by News Corp., NBC Universal and Disney, are available only to subscribers.

If this is in fact the direction Hulu is going, it definitely would put a dent in the number of people interested in Hulu. The exception might be if they really are considering putting Hulu on a set-top box or other CE devices. Dave noticed an article stating Roku might be getting Hulu on their media player and there have been several rumors of Hulu coming to the XBox 360. I can see a paid model being more palatable to the owners of Hulu than the current free for all.

I kind of hope this isn’t true, but it probably is the future. Newspapers, TV and other online media is very likely moving towards more paid or at least subscription models going forward and this goes follows that trend. Put Hulu in high definition or at least much closer-to-HDTV quality, put it on as many CE boxes as possible like Netflix has been doing, and I think it just might work. (via

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Geek Tonic.


While there seems to be a resurgence of Slingbox haterade, EchoStar isn’t sitting by idly. A SlingCatcher software & firmware update was pushed out a few days ago, a Palm Pre mobile client is in the works, and we recently covered that unfortunate WiFi-only iPhone Slingplayer. Now, as promised back at Macworld, has enabled OS X Slingbox streaming… via Safari 3 and Firefox 3 web browsers using a lightweight Java plugin. (As opposed to the full-on desktop client.)

The new functionality is described as a “beta, sneak peek.” And I’m not quite sure if true HD streaming is possible yet (from a Slingbox PRO-HD). However, we do know that the plugin is limited to Intel-based Macs and the Slingbox SOLO, PRO or PRO-HD models. Is this an(other) arbitrary delineation or does the plugin request H.264-encoded video versus WMV?

Click to enlarge:

Thanks for the tip, Jacob!


Gone from Hulu “every one” isn’t a fair characterization*, but it seems FX has gotten a bit stingy in streaming full TV episodes. There was a small note in a recent GigaOM Pro report (yes, I subscribe) stating that FX removed three seasons worth of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia from Hulu in the first quarter of 2009. This struck me because of commentary I heard from a Discovery Channel exec back at The Cable Show. The Discovery Channel is not interested in streaming free episodes online, preferring instead to protect its dual-revenue business model with both advertising and carriage fees from pay TV operators. Perhaps other cable networks like FX see wisdom in this?

A quick review on Hulu found six FX shows represented, but only four shows include full episodes. Rescue Me is the standout with 55 episodes available. Canceled show The Riches has 20 episodes, and 30 Days has 18 episodes. Sunny has only seven episodes available, while Burn Notice, Nip Tuck, and Sons of Anarchy have none. The lack of Burn Notice episodes surprises me given that the popular show returns to air this week, though FX says it will stream episodes again on Hulu when the new season starts. (As a commenter points out below, Burn Notice is on the USA Network. Sorry All, I had Burn Notice on the brain, but it’s still interesting that available episodes online are limited.)

There is very little consistency in how content owners are distributing video online, but it seems likely that less and less of it will be free in the future, particularly if/when initiatives like Hulu-on-Roku become a reality. I think of this as one of the reasons it’s good to be an early adopter. With more of the mainstream jumping on the Internet video bandwagon, content owners and providers (like the cablecos) have more incentive than ever to limit what’s available for no charge.

*The title and first line of this post are a reference to the folk song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”. I am a child of a child of the sixties.