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Netflix’s ‘autoplay’ button creator reveals its shocking origin story

A user claiming to be the creator of Netflix's autoplay feature shared its backstory, revealing the addictive effects of scientific engineering during its development and the rigorous testing process that determined 10 sec as the optimal duration.

By Rashaad Ather
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Netflix changed its autoplay countdown to 5 seconds from 10 over time. The streaming app thinks it keeps people hooked.

But do you know how the autoplay feature came into being?

A user on hacker news claiming to be a member of the original team that developed the ‘autoplay button’ for Netflix shares its origination story.

Origin Story:

Netflix’s famous Autoplay button increased viewership on the platform exponentially. Autoplay allows you to go to the next episode without lifting your finger.

He wrote they started small, testing it on the web player first, calling it "post-play" back then. 

“I'm the dev that built Netflix's autoplay of the next episode. We built it first on the web player because it is easy to A/B test new features there. We called it "post-play" at the time.”: wrote the user.

The objective was to engage viewers and encourage them to return. Therefore, every new concept had to pass the tests for viewing time and audience retention. They experimented with various ideas and tested them on 100,000 users. 

Autoplay became a game-changer. It pumped up hours-watched numbers like nothing else. Some sceptics thought it was cheating, as viewers may wander off to grab snacks while Netflix keeps rolling.

“Autoplay massively increased hours watched. I can't remember the exact numbers, but it was by far the biggest increase in the hours watched KPI of any feature we ever tested. There was some scepticism about whether the number was inflated by Netflix continuing to play when the user left the room”:  the user wrote.

But they fine-tuned it and tested different countdowns between episodes—5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds. Turns out, 10 seconds was the sweet spot. Just enough time to catch your breath, but not too long to lose interest.

“As part of the autoplay test, we tested how long the countdown should be between episodes. 5 seconds, 10 seconds or 15 seconds. 10 seconds caused the biggest increase in hours watched. We thought that it gave people time to digest what they had just watched, but wasn't too fast (5 seconds) where it became jarring”: wrote the user.

Scientific Engineering:

Weird it may sound but the user equates Netflix with chips brand Doritos.

Why? Just like Netflix, it ensures the audience doesn’t get bored, and different-flavoured Doritos are available at all times.

“Netflix wants you to spend more hours watching Netflix and the product team is scientifically engineering the product to make it more addictive.”

Tags: Netflix Autoplay streaming Doritos KPI