Netflix's new rating system is confusing
OPINION: Since the dawn of movie reviews, the star system has relected how films are rated.
Everyone knew that five stars meant the movie was a must-watch while one star demonstrated the film would be only slightly better than watching paint dry.
While it also mattered who had awarded the stars, it was easy to understand the system.
So why has Netflix abandoned stars in favour of a system more commonly found on an internet dating site?
The company said it felt stars were old and that the new system was better for viewers.
So now when you rate a show you give it a thumbs up or thumbs down instead of a star rating.
Netflix then uses an algorithm to suggest shows you may like. It does this by giving each show a percentage rating, which indicates a likely match.
For example, if you watch an action movie and give it a thumbs up, then when you search for films from the same genre they'll have a match in the 90s.
The percentage system, like the previous star rating, is based on what you've watched and rated. It doesn't take into account other people's ratings.
That means Netflix's system relies on algorithms rather than reviewers. However, despite the fancy new name, algorithms (what we all used to call software) can be a bit dumb.
When I choose a TV show or movie to watch I still prefer a healthy dose of human involvement. Either a recommendation from a well-watched friend or a great review from a critic I trust.
If I can't find those, I try Metacritic, a website which provides a score based on reviews from respected critics. To add balance, it also provides a rating based on user reviews.
It's probably the best site for judging a show's merit and helps avoid relying on "the crowd" which is what IMDB does.
That's because, like algorithms, the crowd can be dumb.
However, I now find it harder to judge a Netflix show using the percentage. I found stars easier to "understand" where as now I get stuck wondering if a 76% per cent rating is good or not.
But it seems the new system is working well for Netflix. Based on testing, replacing stars with thumbs saw a 200 per cent increase in ratings activity.
This column has been corrected to clarify that the new system, like the old one, is based on an individual's viewing preference, not ratings provided by others.