Netflix 'two thumbs up' rating is just the start of personalization changes

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Most of us bingeing Bridgerton, Inventing Anna, or Is it Cake? on Netflix didn't just like these series, we loved them; however, we could express only mild enthusiasm with a thumbs up rating. That's now changed, with Netflix introducing a new 'two thumbs up' rating to signify that you 'love this!'.

Netflix teased the new feature a few weeks back, but now it's live globally on the web, iOS, Android, and on your streaming devices. Plus we finally have more information about how Netflix is using 'love this!', how that rating's algorithmic impact might differ from a mere single thumbs up, and what the future might hold.

In a blog post discussing the change, Netflix Director of Product Innovation Christine Doig-Cardet explained why the streaming behemoth added another rating tier.

"Our current Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons are a good way for you to tell us how you feel about a series or film, and in return, you get a profile that’s better personalized to your taste," Doig-Cardet said. "However, we’ve learned over time that these feelings can go beyond a simple like or dislike. Providing an additional way to tell us when you’re really into something means a profile with recommendations that better reflect what you enjoy."

A single thumbs up rating will still help Netflix tailor recommendations, but a double thumbs-up will help Netflix refine the recommendations even further. "For example," wrote Doig-Cardet, "if you loved Bridgerton, you might see even more shows or films starring the cast, or from Shondaland [the production company of Bridgerton showrunner Shonda Rhimes]."

“This feature," a Netflix spokesperson told TechRadar, "I would liken it to turning up the volume on your dial for a song you really love.”

The 'love this!' rating is not suddenly the predominant viewing preference indicator. It's simply another signal among many to tell Netflix what you really love so they can show you what you really want, noted the spokesperson. So you won't just see the best shows on Netflix but the best for you.

Among the signals Netflix still looks at is how you interact with shows you're watching or not watching. When you use 'Play Something,' for instance, hitting 'Next' as soon as a show starts to play lets Netflix know that you really don't like that content.

The new rating isn't hard to find. Open any Netflix show and you'll see the original thumbs-up rating option. On the desktop, we could hover over that icon to see thumbs down ('not for me'), thumbs up ('I like this'), and the new two thumbs up ('love this!'). 

The rating options are available on all shows and can be changed at any time, which might encourage you to go back and rerate Squid Game.

Netflix Love This

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It won't save a show

No matter how much you love a series, even using the new two thumbs up rating won't save your favorite Netflix shows. 

"No. Ultimately, as you know, our content team is amazing," Netflix told us. "Much of that decision-making is rooted in art and science and instinct and it will remain that way."

But there is a chance of tangential impact if Netflix goes ahead with another idea, which is to use the double thumbs up rating to drive an entire row of "Most loved stuff this week."  After all, if you see what everyone else is really loving, then you might decide to watch that over something people simply 'like'.

If part of Netflix's decision-making is rooted in science, and a piece of that science is viewers... well, then it does seem possible that Loving content might someday lead to saving it.

What's next

Netflix's 'love this!' rating option is just the beginning of what could be a year of personalization changes.

"We’re really excited about this," noted the Netflix spokesperson. It's the "first update in five years to the thumb rating system, [and] the first out the gate this year for us."

Which means there's more to come. Netflix's goal is to give members more control over their viewing experience.

"We really want to introduce more personalization features this year," said the Netflix spokesperson. "You’ll see a lot more from us this year in this space."

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.