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Netflix changing user reviews, dumps star ratings

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Netflix is radically overhauling its user reviews.

After years of allowing customers to rank movies on a scale of 1-to-5 stars, the streaming service announced plans to replace that system with a binary “thumbs up vs. thumbs down” rating. Soon one-star ratings will cease to be a thing on Netflix — or five-star ratings, for that matter.

The new Siskel & Ebert-ian system was revealed by Netflix executive Todd Yellin at a press briefing at the company’s headquarters in Los Gatos, California on Thursday, Variety reported and EW confirmed.

The executive said Netflix tested the new system last year and found that users volunteered 200 percent more ratings when faced with a simple up or down choice than when having five options — so the system will result in more feedback from viewers.

Yellin also noted that the review system has been less important over the years as the company has found users will often rank respected documentaries with five stars and more frivolous titles with one star despite being far more likely to actually watch the latter. (It’s true; many popular guilty-pleasure favorites like Armageddon are saddled with one-star averages despite having plenty of fans).

Still, it’s hard not to feel like the new method gives users less information — a four-star average feels rather different than five-star average even though both would receive the same thumbs up.

To help compensate for the gradient loss, a Netflix spokesperson tells EW the company is also adding a percentage match score that’s based on compatibility — instead of a score based on movie’s quality via reviews: “For example, if you see a title has a 90 percent match, that means that based on your viewing habits and patterns, we think you are highly likely to enjoy that title.”

So it’s a bit like the way some dating sites function — only matching you with entertainment titles rather than eligible suitors.

Continues the spokesperson: “Unlike other services, though, this feature is about helping members better personalize their unique experience, not sharing an opinion on the quality of a story.”

The shakeup — which will take effect in April — comes on the heels of comedian Amy Schumer accusing haters of conspiring to flood her latest Netflix special with one-star reviews. “The alt-right organized trolls attack everything I do,” Schumer said. More on the Schumer issue here.