January 08, 2005

Netflix Friends, How About Netflix Neighbors?

Got an email recently from Netflix announcing the launch of Netflix Friends, a new service from Netflix.

From the first line of the email: "With Netflix Friends you can see what your friends are watching and share your movies with them" (emphasis added).

And then on their site, Netflix says in big text, "share movies with your Netflix Friends."

Ok, so I ought to be able to give my rentals to my friends when I'm done with them, and they ought to be able to give me theirs, right? After all, that's what sharing movies with friends really means, right?

In fact, I wish we could take it even further: how about Netflix Neighbors?

Imagine: you go to Netflix, and indicate that you are willing to participate in the Netflix Neighbors program. This means that you can view what other Netflix customers within N miles of you who have also enrolled in the program are currently renting -- what is currently shipped to those customers. If there are things you want to rent from the list, why wait until you return your rented DVDs to Netflix and then get your own copies? Why not just swap what you have with what your neighbor has?

Say I have Lawrence of Arabia and Beverly Hills Cop (just examples, okay?). Say someone right down the street from me is enrolled in the Netflix Neighbors program, and sees that someone in the neighborhood has Lawrence of Arabia. They go to the Netflix site, click on the link for the "local copy of Lawrence of Arabia", and send a message to that renter. So far, both parties' identities are hidden. When I get that message, that a Netflix Neighbor would like one of my rentals, I can reply to the message thru Netflix, and approve the request, at which point my identity (perhaps name and phone number) are revealed to the other requestor, and likewise, i get their name and phone number too. We call up, meet up, I hand over the DVD, and presto, the neighbor gets a copy without having to wait (how's that for movies on demand!) and I get to meet a neighbor I might not have met before (how's that for un-doing Bowling Alone?)

Sure, there are some technical details to work out (like notifying Netflix that I now have possession of another customer's rental). You could type in the barcode or something and that would enable the neighbor to get the next DVD in their own queue, and let Netflix be able to continuously track inventory. And yes, there's an honor system involved here, but hey. It'd still be fun, and it might just work.

And yes, this same thing might work really well at work: Netflix Co-workers (or better yet, Workflix)! ("Share your movies with your co-workers!") Just bring in your rentals, and someone at work takes possession of them and hopefully you can take possession of someone else's movies and Netflix saves money by cutting down on postage, customers are happier, and everybody wins.

Posted by brian at January 8, 2005 11:32 AM


This would work great on a college campus. Especially those with a central mail room where you can exchange by simply dropping it in a slot and it's delivered for pickup at any time.

Posted by: William at January 9, 2005 01:37 PM

You like people more than I do.

Posted by: Derek Nelson at January 10, 2005 12:02 PM

For those that don't like people you don't need to sign up for the program. :)

I think it's a great idea. The only thing going against it is the fact that Netflix has to rely on people's honesty. Perhaps if you've been a subscriber for a few months without any "violations" on your account you would have the opportunity to sign up for programs like these.

Posted by: Alex Polson at January 11, 2005 10:18 AM

One other thing...

The social aspect alone would be really great. It would be a good way to break the ice for those people that... don't like people very much, are shy, and would like to interact a little bit with their neighbors, coworkers, etc.

Posted by: Alex Polson at January 11, 2005 10:20 AM

movies - above 21 y.o. only.

Posted by: survey at February 23, 2005 09:39 AM

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