Netflix Annd AIM

Netflix Friends
I recently became re-acquainted with Netflix – the online DVD rental company. From my previous encounter, I knew about the Ratings and Recommendations and how powerful that could be in predicting your tastes, but now it seems that they have taken a sip from the Social Software kool-aid – a whole set of community features they call Friends.

I’m not sure how recent these changes are but I did get the chance to play with them today as I connected to a friend. I came away impressed, and wondering when we’ll start to see such integration in other websites (Yahoo! – I’m looking at you, you’ve pushed out Ratings and Recommendations broadly over your properties, but haven’t tied them together well yet).

Clearly Netflix understands both their audience (we subscribers) and their content (the DVDs) – the Friends page makes the love of movies front and center. The obvious features are the views of your Friends Queues, and movies they’ve recently rated, but there is much more…

On your Friends page, you can see what movies you rated similarly – both high and low, and this is also presented in a fun little ‘Friends Quiz’ such as – ‘Which one of these did like?’. On the movies page, anything that links you to your friends adds a purple figure on the bottom right that indicates that someone on your list has done something to that item before. You can push a Suggestion to them and even write a mini-review (called a ‘2-Cent Review’) that’s for their eyes only.

All in all, I’m very impressed and will definitely be spending more time exploring Netflix now I have a friend to help guide me.

AIM Heading to a More Social Space
Jon Fine at Business Week is revealing sourced information about AOL developing social software atop its AIM instant messaging platform. No hard news here, but plenty of speculation about whether AOL can effectively compete with MySpace, or at least earn a sliver of the expanding pie. Fine notes that MySpace thrives on loose rules that allow its hoardes of teen users to customize the experience and use the service to escape the dicta of their offline lives. AOL, claims the article, is too rule-bound to mimic such an atmosphere. Well, AOL’s lineage comes directly from offering pure space for the swarming underground masses. But it’s true that the contemporary version of AOL is more family-oriented. Perhaps that will be the competitive distinction giving AIM-Space (fictitious name, of course) some traction. Parents are just getting up to speed with the MySpace culture, and not particularly liking what they see.

The real competitive advantage, though, will be the collosal user base of AIM. Building online community on the broad shoulders of a major IM platform isn’t a new idea, but neither has it acheived respectable fruition.