Netflix Revolutionizes Movies On-Demand

Retrofuturist visualization for the release of Netflix's streaming feature.

Retrofuturist visualization for the release of Netflix’s streaming feature.

In 2007, ten years after its foundation, Netflix revealed a feature that would not only give them an edge over Blockbuster, but would also alter the future of movie and television watching: video streaming. However, rather then being hailed for the revolutionary idea of being able to watch movies instantly on any computer, Netflix faced widespread skepticism after their announcement. Many people simply did not believe that Netflix would be able to follow through on their claim, and a lot of critics saw the initial bugs in the feature (such as issues downloading required software and incompatibility with popular web browsers) as signs that the system would inevitably fail.

Despite Chief Executive Reed Hasting’s assurances that the company “will nail this,” the majority of critics remained extremely dubious. In his essay in Re-newing Old Technologies, Tom Gunning offers a partial explanation to their disbelief by pointing out the “uncanny” (2003) quality found in most new technologies, . Although Gunning limits the sense of uncannines to “technologies of communication… or of representation” (2003), the unfamiliarity and accessibility of streaming gave it an almost mystical quality. To many, the idea of watching free, instant movies on a personal computer was simply too good to be true. Even Freud recognized the “reemergence of earlier stages of magical thinking” (Gunning, 2003) in relation to unfamiliar, and thus uncanny, new technologies.

However, this fantastical mindset translated to doubt of the company’s service, leading many critics, such as Quentin Hardy from Forbes, to be especially critical of any bugs with the service. Hardy claimed the feature only “sort of” (2007) worked, and other negative reviews of the brand-new system led to the discourse around Netflix’s announcement to be similar to that of a fad technology or product. However, even though the streaming system was not perfect in the first try, the idea of streaming movies was too brilliant to ignore. Even Hardy allows, “In its ideal form, it is a very impressive product” (2007). Although the system initially had a few bugs to work out, Netflix’s streaming is apparently impressive enough to earn over 50 million subscribers.

Hardy, Q. (2007, January 16). Netflix To Stream Live Movies For Free. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from

Thorburn, D., & Gunning, T. (2003). Astonishment, Second Nature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of-the-Century. In Rethinking media change the aesthetics of transition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.


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