Netflix is launching a simplified rating system to improve its suggestions

Plus a new "percentage match" feature

Netflix replaces star ratings with thumbs up/down
In this crude mockup, a thumbs-up emoji takes the place of the old star rating system. Stan Horaczek

In 2016, Netflix declared its five-star rating system for content was on its way out. Since then, a new system based on a binary thumbs up/down mechanism has rolled out in beta to thousands of users. Now it’s scheduled for official launch in April alongside a new “percentage match” feature designed to improve the service’s ability to show you stuff you actually want to watch.

The new rating feature is simply called “thumbs” and replaces a star system that Netflix believes caused a lot of confusion right from the start. “The star ratings represented compatibility—not quality. This means that 4-5 stars indicated that based on your previous viewing habits, Netflix thought you would enjoy a specific title,” a Netflix rep shared via e-mail. So, rather than acting like a movie critic, you’re simply telling Netflix that you liked something and want to see more things like it. It feels a bit like curating stations on Pandora.

In its testing, Netflix claims a 200 percent increase in engagement with the new ratings system when compared to the star ratings. Not only were more users participating, but there was also an increase in the number of ratings each person offered.

Netflix thumb rating system replaces stars
While not its explicit purpose, the new system could potentially prevent coordinated ratings “attacks” like the one recently targeting Amy Schumer’s comedy special. Netflix

Netflix is also rolling out a “percentage match” scoring system, which further shifts the emphasis away from top-level qualitative judgments. Each title will have a percentage score associated with it to indicate whether the service thinks you’ll like it. “This percent match score is based on an individual member’s unique viewing patterns and habits—it is personalized for each Netflix member,” the Netflix rep said.

Right now, Netflix is being tight-lipped about how all of this works on the back end (Netflix has said they won’t be sharing more official technical info until closer to launch in April), but the company has indicated that take emphasis away from local markets and instead group users by behavioral data. And while you may not use the recommendations that much, this info is also could feasibly help guide the direction Netflix goes in the future when it comes to selecting shows and movies that will be available. Giving a thumbs-up to that movie or show you love may be more valuable than you thought.

If you want to improve your Netflix experience right now, check out this list of simple hacks.

Stan Horaczek
Stan Horaczek

is the senior gear editor at Popular Science and Popular Photography. His past bylines include Rolling Stone, Engadget, Men's Journal, GQ, and just about any other publication that has ever written about gadgets. For a short time, he even wrote the gadget page for Every Day With Rachel Ray magazine. He collects vintage cameras, eats pizza, and hopes you won't go looking at his Tweets even though the link is down there.