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Netflix is ditching five-star ratings in favor of a thumbs-up

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And it will show a percentage to ‘match’ you with shows

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Netflix will soon be changing its ratings system for the first time in several years, switching from a traditional five-star rating to a thumbs-up / thumbs-down system, Netflix vice president of product Todd Yellin said in a press briefing today.

“Five stars feels very yesterday now,” Yellin said. “We’re spending many billions of dollars on the titles we’re producing and licensing, and with these big catalogs, that just adds a challenge.” He added that “bubbling up the stuff people actually want to watch is super important.”

Yellin said the change will happen in April, and will roll out globally. (Some customers may still see star ratings in your Netflix account for a short while longer.)

It was reported last year that Netflix was looking to move away from its old way of rating shows and movies, when the company began beta testing the “thumbs.” It rolled out the interface change to hundreds of thousands of new Netflix users around the world, while other members saw the old interface with stars. After sitting back for a few months, Yellin said, the company observed that over 200 percent more ratings were logged, cementing the decision to change the system.

Photo by Lauren Goode / The Verge

Switching to a binary thumbs-up / thumbs-down system might seem less granular than offering five stars, but Yellin said there’s an implicit understanding with thumbs-up / thumbs-down that people are doing it to improve their own experience rather than trying to rate it for the rest of the world. And at the end of the day, it’s really about just getting more people to rate things.

“What’s more powerful: you telling me you would give five stars to the documentary about unrest in the Ukraine; that you’d give three stars to the latest Adam Sandler movie; or that you’d watch the Adam Sandler movie 10 times more frequently?” Yellin said. “What you do versus what you say you like are different things.”

In addition to the ratings change, Netflix will also start percent matching, which means it will use algorithms to show a percentage below a title based on how likely it is you’ll like it. This is personalized, Yellin said, not unlike dating sites that match you with potential partners based on interests or earlier activity.

Another interesting point on this: Netflix is “matching” members based on a global database of activity, not segmenting it by local markets. The company found that its customers are surprisingly willing to watch Netflix content that has been produced in other countries or has subtitles. “We’re finding these clusters of people and then we’re figuring out who is like you, who enjoys these kinds of things, and then we’re mixing and matching those,” Yellin explained.