If you're one of the 69 million Netflix subscribers, the odds are that at some point your viewing extravaganza has been interrupted... by... really... annoying... buffering... It's excruciating, it's frustrating, but fortunately it's set to change.
Netflix is currently responsible for, astonishingly, a third of all of North America's Internet traffic at peak times. How can such high levels of data usage decrease, while increasing the quality of the stream? It's a problem boffins at the company have been working hard to fix for four years.
It's one of their top priorities for a number of reasons. Cable companies in the US, for example, have voiced their annoyance at the streaming service for hogging so much data streaming shows such as Jessica Jones (trailer above).
Also, with plans to take over the world and expand to over 200 countries by 2016, the service needs to be flexible for nations with lower Internet speeds.
It's a Bit Technical
Currently, stream quality is dependent on your connection speed. Every video, from Captain America to Archer, all use the same encoding technique. This reaction to the consumers' connection is why, sometimes, the quality all of a sudden gets a bit sh*tty. Typically, during a Lubezki-esque visual color fest that just needs to be in HD.
The planned changes mean the quality of the stream will depend on what you're streaming. Or, as Anne Aaron, Algorithm Manager at Netflix, puts it:
“You shouldn’t allocate the same amount of bits for ‘My Little Pony’ as for ‘The Avengers."
The entire back catalogue will be individually encoded to offer the best quality at the lowest bitrate. For example, My Little Pony could stream at full HD 1080p quality at just 1.5mbps. Whereas a blockbuster like Avengers could run in HD at 4.6mbps compared to 5.8mbps – saving 20 percent data.
Faster, Better, Stronger
For those of you who seize up at abbreviations like mbps and 1080p, this essentially means your favorite TV show will load faster, look better, and use less of your Internet connection.
The process of implementation has already begun, and will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2016. Plus, such is the importance of minimizing data usage, the tech guru's at Netflix are even considering eventually encoding individual scenes differently.
That means shows such as Better Call Saul, Daredevil, Marco Polo and much more will all, hopefully, load quickly for your viewing pleasure. You can see the trailer for the Season 2 of Daredevil below:
The Rise and Rise of Netflix
The company is aiming to spread to 200 countries over the next two years, while maintaining profitability, which is a good indication of its power. Now in 50 countries, let's have a brief look at the rise and rise of Netflix:
- Launched in 1997, offering online DVD rentals
- Members reach 600,000 in the US by 2002
- By 2005, the number has risen to 4.2 million
- In 2007, online streaming is introduced, allowing users to watch TV and film instantly on personal computers
- Launches in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2011, and premieres in Europe in 2012
- Becomes the first Internet TV network ever to be win an Emmy for House of Cards
- By this year, Netflix is available in 50 countries and has 69 million members
- Every month, users watch 10 billion hours of their favorite shows and films