By John Young
Updated September 20, 2011 at 01:00 PM EDT

Dear Netflix,

We’ve had some good times together. I remember when your red envelopes first freed me from the authoritarian grasp of Blockbuster, where friendly employees were as abundant as NC-17 movies. One of the first films I ordered through your service was Battleship Potemkin, the 1925 silent classic that would have been impossible to find in a Blockbuster store that carried 125 copies of Van Helsing. That’s why we cinephiles gravitated toward Netflix — you offered films we couldn’t rent anywhere else, and you provided an experience that was simple and cool.

And then you had to go and ruin a beautiful thing.

First, you split your DVD and streaming services into separate plans, implementing a 60 percent price increase for subscribers who wanted both products. Users felt blindsided and burned by that decision, forcing many to choose between your large DVD library and the instant gratification of streaming a smaller selection of titles. I put my account on hold before the price increase, with the intention of returning to Netflix later this year to catch up on some 2011 movies I missed, such as the acclaimed Meek’s Cutoff.

But I won’t be coming back anytime soon. Not to Netflix, and not to Qwikster, the renamed DVD-mailing service you announced late Sunday night. My reasoning: By separating and renaming your DVD product, you’re no longer simple and cool.

Regarding simplicity, the creation of Qwikster makes your users do twice the amount of work: two accounts, two queues, two sets of ratings. Netflix was such an attractive product because it provided a single stop for all your movie-watching needs. Chances were always high that, between DVDs and streaming, Netflix had the film I was looking for. And I only had to go searching for that movie once. I could look up Rio Bravo, see that it was available on Blu-ray and via streaming, and decide which way I’d prefer to watch it.

Now, Netflix and Qwikster will exist as two separate sites that, according to your CEO Reed Hastings, will not integrate with one another. That means that if Rio Bravo wasn’t available for streaming on Netflix, I’d have to leave the Netflix page, sign in to Qwikster, and then search for Rio Bravo a second time to see if it’s available on DVD or Blu-ray. That may only sound like 10 extra seconds of work, but we’re an impatient bunch. In his apology note, Hastings claims that one advantage of separate websites “is simplicity for our members.” But I fail to see how having to maintain two distinct accounts makes life any easier for your users.

As for coolness, Netflix used to be the epitome of cool. We Netflix subscribers used to worship at your altar. As far as we were concerned, you could do no wrong. You pushed Blockbuster to bankruptcy because you offered a vastly superior product. Your brand name carried prestige and became a verb when we decided to skip a movie in theaters: “I’ll just Netflix it.” And when you added free streaming, you showed us the future of home entertainment without neglecting your DVD service — the product that catapulted you to stardom.

However, by creating Qwikster, you’re essentially mocking your DVD subscribers. First, there’s the pitiful name, which simultaneously brings to mind Nesquik and a pair of deteriorating online services: Napster and Friendster. “We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery,” wrote Hastings, oblivious to the irony of calling the slower of his two products quick. The name is awkward to type, violating the “u after q” rule that elementary-school teachers hammered into our heads. And unlike Netflix, the name Qwikster doesn’t conjure the image of movies. Mailflix, as plain as that sounds, would have been better, especially since that Twitter handle doesn’t belong to a NSFW profanity-spewing stoner whose avatar was, as of yesterday, a photo of Elmo smoking a joint.

Yet as cringe-worthy as the name Qwikster may be, it’s the meaning behind the name change that’s the most disheartening. By retaining the Netflix name for your streaming service, you’re making a statement about where you’re placing your chips. Clearly, you believe that streaming represents the future of home entertainment, and in that regard, you’re correct. But did that belief necessitate a name change for your “lesser” product — a name change that’s going to make Qwikster users feel about as cool as HP TouchPad owners?

There’s nothing wrong with preferring Blu-rays and DVDs over streaming. Nerds like me may favor the assured 1080p quality of Blu-ray over the network-dependent quality of streaming. And even if it takes a day (or, heaven forbid, two!) for a disc to be delivered, that’s a reasonable sacrifice in exchange for the sheer size of your DVD library. But with Qwikster, you are intentionally digging a grave for your DVD plan. When it comes time to sell or dispose of your DVD service, it’ll be that much easier to do if it has a separate name like Qwikster. You are basically calling your DVD subscribers Luddites: “What, you’re still getting your movies by mail?” and “Oh my, you’re still using that silly-sounding website that doesn’t even integrate with Netflix?”

Yes, Netflix, I still want to get my movies by mail, and no, I don’t want to be treated like an antiquated fool for doing so. Simply put, I don’t want to sign up for a service whose very purpose is to die. So I’ll be looking elsewhere. I hear GreenCine is a pleasant home for film lovers. Or maybe — just maybe — I’ll return to the company that drove me to Netflix in the first place. For one thing, Blockbuster Total Access has Meek’s Cutoff on Blu-ray, while Netflix Qwikster currently does not.


John Young