No, Netflix isn’t chopping down your family

I like Cory Doctorow a lot, and tend to agree with him on most things, but this screed about Netflix changing its “family” settings is not one of them.

He drills down hard on the “family” naming and grinds his ax on a variety of things he sees as “enshittification” (I had to double-check there were two t’s) of the service in its long and winding history from physical mailer of DVDs to streaming studio.

What’s missing here is any perspective that Netflix is 1000% optional and non-mandatory. Netflix is entertainment my friends. It is not insulin or cancer treatment. Losing your Netflix privileges isn’t going to send you into poverty or break up your home.

Nowhere does Cory acknowledge that, you know, maybe people are over-sharing their passwords. He’s right that family isn’t easily defined but a “family” is not an entity with a God-given right to access the same Netflix account.

Maybe Netflix’s account changes are draconian. Maybe people shouldn’t put up with them. If that’s the case then cancel your account.

The primary reason companies get away with “enshittification” of their services is that people complain but then pay anyway. Netflix and its brethren are amoral money munching machines, by law. They’re a public company. They respond to “numbers go up” and “numbers go down.” If numbers go up, they try to turn the crank to make it happen more. If numbers go down, or they think they will, they reverse course.

Netflix is still $20 a month for all-you-can-eat entertainment. Remember that, entertainment. At that price you get four concurrent streams on different devices plus downloaded content. You can’t walk into a theater with a family of four in the U.S. for a first-run movie for less than $50 in most areas. For one film.

I’m far more aggrieved at Netflix for platforming anti-trans content and continually cancelling good shows than I am that they might crack down on overzealous password sharing. I’d happily kick in an extra tenner a month to knock Dave Chappelle off the service and get another season of GLOW and/or Santa Clarita Diet.

Cory has a long reach. I wish he’d encourage his audience to pull the plug on the service rather than try to make some convoluted argument about what family is. That’s irrelevant, really. Netflix is a business. It has to define a set number of users at a certain price point. It’s also a fully optional business that literally everyone reading this post can live without. If you’re willing to cancel over the changes, then do so. If not, there’s little point in ranting.


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