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Netflix kills third party app platform, current apps will continue to work

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Netflix Headquarters 1
Netflix Headquarters 1

In a blog post with the understated (to say the least) title "Changes to the Public API Program," Netflix has announced that it's shutting down its public API program. Effectively, that means that no new apps that take advantage of the data Netflix used to provide — for example, for searching for new shows and movies to watch — will be possible. Netflix director of engineering, Daniel Jacobson, writes that "existing and active affiliates" will still have access to Netflix's APIs, so any third-party apps you currently use should still work as normally. Along with the changes, Netflix has set its developer forum to "read-only," shut down its "OData catalog" for programmatically accessing Netflix's catalog, and directed all developers to Stack Overflow for their questions.

Jacobson says that "the API program has shifted over the past few years," and that its "primary focus is to support the myriad devices used by our 33 million members to stream TV shows and movies." Be that as it may, the move means that we won't be seeing more innovative apps like Fayve or "A Better Queue" ever again, assuming Netflix stick to this new policy. That's probably going to be the case, although the company has famously reversed course before when faced with a consumer backlash. In a strange bit of doublespeak, Jacobson writes that essentially shutting down the API program for new developers "will allow us to continue to offer the public API program in a way that aligns with our goals." Those goals, presumably, include ensuring customers come directly to Netflix when they want to see Netflix's data, not a third party app.

"We will no longer issue new public API developer keys. [...] We will no longer accept new API affiliates. [...] We will retire the OData catalog."

The move surely won't prevent Netflix from working with partners to expand its availability on various TV, smartphone, and tablet platforms. Netflix has previously said that it serves more than 2 billion API calls a day for its streaming API, so it's safe to assume that the calls to the public API were a tiny, tiny fraction of that. Tiny though it may be, Netflix's move closes off a small but interesting ecosystem of apps that took advantage of Netflix's previously-open data.