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Vice: “Goodbye to Netflix DVDs, The Last Good Tech Company”

Another good farewell to Netflix’s DVD service, by Aaron Gordon in Vice. This graf about losing an affordable, single destination for a massive library of film/tv is what makes me so sad. I don’t think people will truly understand what we’ve lost:

Back in 2013, Netflix DVD was at its peak. Although I didn’t appreciate it as such at the time, in retrospect it was a perfect service. There were, by some accounts, upwards of 100,000 titles in Netflix’s library, making it likely the largest collection of rentable films ever assembled for mass consumption.

I also appreciated Gordon’s contrast between distributing films and creating…content:

The acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert once memorably described movies as “like a machine that generates empathy.” The best movies are such machines. Many of the ones I watched in 2013 were. On the other end of the spectrum, there are films that are made because a company has amassed data that says what kinds of movies people like. It is a machine, alright, but one that generates a purgatory of nothingness that not so much resembles art as mimics it. It is content.

Today, Netflix is a content generator. It buys, makes, produces, and markets content. Netflix didn’t care what was inside the envelopes, so the only thing that mattered was that we, the customers, were getting what we wanted. Now, Netflix’s entire business is to know what’s inside, to make you think everything you want is inside, and to keep you distracted long enough so you never see the big world outside. Netflix went from being content-agnostic, a truly unbiased platform, if you will, to being content-obsessed, preferring to show you only its own content, and always its own content first.

I’m not sure that I completely agree with that final sentence—Netflix was likely never truly content-agnostic, they just needed time to ramp up—but it certainly felt that way to users of their service.