Netflix is still the reigning champion of streaming entertainment, and we will always credit the media giant as transforming home-viewing. Even if Blockbuster stores still stood in every neighborhood, no one would bother to drive to one.
But as liberating as Netflix is, people still get frustrated with the service. The index of films is so gigantic, it's hard to decide what to watch. The app keeps diligent records of your viewing habits, which anyone in your home can scrutinize. And what happens when you travel? These may be first world problems, but figuring out the Netflix game can be extremely gratifying.
Here are some clever hacks for getting the most out of your Netflix experience. Many users are surprised how pliable the platform is, once they learn a few tricks. If you haven't fiddled much with your Netflix options, get ready to view the service in a whole new way.
1. Delete Browsing History
Some movies we like to see in groups. Others, we like to see alone. Whether your guilty pleasure is "Gigli" or "Last Tango in Paris," you may not want everyone to know your private cinematic tastes. That's why Netflix makes it easy to hide certain selections from your profile so that nobody else can see what you've watched. You'll find this option under Your Account.
2. Hacking Netflix
Not long ago, there was a site called "A Better Queue," which enabled you to cut through all the unknown and poorly reviewed films that clutter Netflix. That site went under, but Hacking Netflix remains a great resource: You'll find regular updates on new films and TV shows added to the catalog. Despite the aggressive name, Hacking Netflix is nothing nefarious; it's a news site that religiously compiles new releases.
3. Pick a Movie at Random Through Netflix Roulette
Some people can spend an hour sifting through the endless Netflix options and still come up with nothing. (Author Douglas Coupland called this "option paralysis.") Wouldn't it be better to just leave your decision up to fate? That's why the internet invented Netflix Roulette, a site that takes your favorite genres, actors and directors and assigns you a film at random. Satisfy any mood without having to give it a second thought.
4. Netflix Enhancer
This nifty add-on only works on Google Chrome, but it definitely earns its title: Enhancer allows you to hover over a film with your mouse and immediately watch trailers and read reviews. The immediacy of Enhancer saves you the extra effort of looking up background information on YouTube and Rotten Tomatoes.
5. Sift Through Netflix's Weird Sub-Categories
It almost sounds like an urban myth: Netflix has many little subcategories, types of films that you never imagined anyone would identify, like "Steamy Sci-Fi and Fantasy" and "World Music Concerts." Users realized that they could enter certain codes into Netflix's URL and discover extremely specific cinematic genres. Several movie buffs have decoded the Netflix system, but one easy one is Secret Codes Search.
6. Maximize Video Quality
Most people are satisfied with Netflix picture quality, whether they're watching movies on their phone or on a wide-screen TV. It's true that Netflix usually has a pixellated look, but only a fraction of viewers really grumble about it. Yet what if you could improve the resolution? Turns out you can, and pretty easily, as long as you've got a strong Wi-Fi connection. Just access Your Account and visit Playback Settings, and you'll find an option to boost your picture quality to "high."
7. Go International
This is a common shocker: People travel internationally, bringing their iPads along. They arrive in their hotel, log onto Wi-Fi, and access Neflix. But wait! What are all these weird movies? Where's "The Walking Dead"? Turns out each country has its own selection of films and TV, and many mainstays that are U.S. entertainment are not included. How to fix it? Subscribe to Mediahint, which enables you to "unblock content" almost anywhere on the globe.