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Meet the woman who made Netflix get rid of its most annoying feature

A writer from Muncie, Indiana, recently complained about Netflix’s autoplay feature. The company responded in a major way.

The Netflix logo with three red neon lights behind it.
People have been complaining about autoplay previews on Netflix for years.
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Adam Clark Estes is a senior technology correspondent at Vox. He’s spent 15 years covering the intersection of technology, culture, and politics at places like Gizmodo, Vice, and the Atlantic.

Lovers of high-quality feature films and The Witcher rejoiced on Thursday afternoon when Netflix made a huge, unexpected announcement.

Finally, viewers can turn off that annoying feature that autoplayed previews when you scrolled through the video streaming platform’s content. Netflix will also let you turn off the autoplay feature that starts the next episode of a show after you finish the one you’re watching. This happened after a woman from Muncie, Indiana, complained about the feature on Twitter and offered to give away her “entire kingdom” to make it stop. Other Netflix watchers have complained about this feature, but her tweet seems to have gotten the company’s attention.

Sarah Hollowell is a young adult fantasy writer who now owes Netflix her kingdom. After she tweeted for a way to turn off the autoplay feature, Netflix responded a week later on Twitter by linking to a new help page that offers a way to stop both the preview autoplay and the next-episode autoplay. The latter is what you probably blame for your last seven-hour binge, since that next episode comes on before you can peel yourself off the couch.

Recode recently spoke to Hollowell, who explained the backstory to the tweet that rocked the Netflix universe. Hollowell explained that she’s been a Netflix customer since before the company offered streaming videos and simply sent DVDs through the mail. More recently, the self-described “expert binge-watcher” says she couldn’t browse without being inundated by autoplay previews. Her tweet that Netflix seems to have noticed happened after a particularly frustrating session.

“I was clicking through all the categories on the homepage and I was so distracted by knowing that I had to move fast to avoid the autoplay that I could barely register the titles,” Hollowell told Recode. “I ended up muting the TV, and it was the kind of mild annoyance that’s perfect for whining about on Twitter.”

Writer Sarah Hollowell.

A week after her volley of tweets, Netflix retweeted Hollowell and announced the updated settings. This is a big deal, if you follow Netflix Twitter much. People reviled these autoplay previews so much that there’s a dedicated Twitter account collecting the complaints, including one widely circulated smirk from Knives Out director Rian Johnson. Outrage like this has spilled over to seemingly every corner of the internet. If you click through any of those links, you’ll also realize that people have been yelling at Netflix about this for years. There’s even a petition started by a Melissa Bryant, a passionate Netflix user from Maine, that racked up nearly 125,000 signatures in the past two months.

It’s unclear why Netflix finally decided to listen to its customers. Back in 2018, Netflix’s vice president of product innovation told BuzzFeed News that one of the reasons the platform autoplayed preview clips was because “video is just a much more efficient way to communicate these things per unit of time than reading text.” But still, the previews don’t count as views on the platform, so it’s not like Netflix was using the feature to juice its numbers. Recode reached out to Netflix with these questions and will update this post if we hear back.

In the meantime, Hollowell would be happy for folks to think that it was her tweet that did it.

“Don’t get me wrong, I will absolutely take the credit if they want to hand it over to me,” she told Recode. “I will happily be seen as the savior of the people.”

She went on to point out that she’s since tweeted at Hulu about its user design, which she thinks is confusing. Hollowell would also like Amazon Prime Video to know that browsing by genre is a horrible experience on the platform: “Why do they make you answer their riddles three just to find where they’re keeping the horror movies?” It’s hard to say.

If you’ve made it this far and still haven’t turned off the autoplay features in Netflix, we’ll make it easy for you. Just sign in to Netflix and click the “manage profile” button. (If you’re already logged in, you can find this option under the dropdown menu with your profile picture.) From there, you should see two new entries.

To stop the awful autoplay action, just uncheck the box and enjoy the show.

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