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How Netflix plans to solve its biggest problem by using less data

When you get home after a long day, one of the first things you probably do is enjoy a little time on Netflix. Maybe even a lot of time. No judgment. Millions of Americans do it too. In fact, more than one third of data usage consumed during peak hours in the U.S. is attributed to Netflix video streaming. That's pretty significant.

The only problem is that this high demand can bog down the system, causing streaming quality and speed to suffer. It's a problem that Netflix has been aware of for a long time. Since 2011, the company has been actively working on a solution, and after four long years of development, Netflix developers think they've finally found one.

For several months, Netflix employees have been put to the test in their Los Gatos offices. They were asked to view two identical monitors that were streaming the same Netflix episode. One monitor was streaming the content through the standard Netflix service, while the other was streaming through the new technology in development. Any employee that could determine which monitor was streaming through the new technology would get a prize. However, most employees were unable to see any difference.

This was good news to the developers. It meant that the visual quality and speed hadn't been compromised by this new technology that streams using 20% less data. It was a huge win.

Once the Netflix video library has been updated with this new technology, users will see a big difference in the overall viewing experience. If you've ever binged through multiple episodes of a TV show on Netflix, you may have noticed that the quality of the video shifts from episode to episode. This is caused because Netflix currently relies on the bandwidth of individual connections. Meaning, if the bandwidth in your Internet connection shifts, so does Netflix's streaming quality.

But the new technology is designed to fix this by adjusting the amount of bits allocated for each individual piece of content. In other words, the algorithm will designate a different amount of bits to an animated film than it will to an action movie. And this doesn't mean that animated films are getting the raw end of the deal. It's just that various types of content have various needs when it comes to streaming. Animated films are not as complex as action films. Therefore, they can still be streamed in high quality even while using fewer bits.

This differs from the "one size fits all" approach Netflix has used since its early beginnings. And the change is also good news for those who stream Netflix content through portable devices, like tablets and smartphones. Less data to stream means less data chipping away at your data plan.

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Source: Variety
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