October 10th, 2011

Netflix Streaming vs. Amazon Instant Video (Prime), episode n

Lately, both kids have been asking to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle (it doesn't sound like that when they ask for it, which can be really confusing, but we're resigned to that). R. has some boxed sets of DVDs, and we've been watching season 1 a lot. B. has some disks from boxed sets that a friend passed along to her, so they watch it at her place, too.

It occurred to me, after A. handed me an iPad and demanded Rocky and Bullwinkle on the iPad, that there was probably a way to get Rocky and Bullwinkle other than through YouTube (<-- and right there, talk about a missed business opportunity). Sure enough, Netflix appears to have all 5 seasons available through the streaming service (this is profoundly unsurprising to me, given how much of the Star Trek franchise you can watch streamed from Netflix, not to mention endless amounts of kidvid, except Teletubbies and I'm not going to get started on the difficulties to acquiring Teletubbies. At least not right now I'm not). Amazon Instant Video, however, appears to only have seasons 1-4. I tried a bunch of different ways of searching and I came up empty. (I even tried searching for individual episodes from season 5, which led me to realize that _The Moose That Roared_ is not available on the kindle.)

So when Nate Hoffelder says this:

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2011/10/10/netflix-wont-split-in-2-but-theyre-still-doomed/

I don't really agree with him. He makes excellent points, but what everyone who is busy pointing out that Netflix doesn't have current content seems to not notice is how freakishly comprehensive their older content is. Specifically, the older content that I wind up caring about that I had no idea I was going to care about. Amazon Prime Instant Video _looks_ like it should be a replacement for Netflix streaming. But it isn't.

Yet.

Weird coverage of Silk

http://gigaom.com/2011/10/10/why-silk-wont-be-silky-smooth-for-amazon/

Om Malik got a quote from "Mathew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, a hosted proxy service provider based in San Diego". Remember, this is a direct quote, and it's in an article at gigaom, and the guy does proxy service for a living so the general assumption would be that the guy knows what he is talking about and what he said was repeated accurately. Here's the quote:

"Technically, the biggest challenge will likely be cache invalidation. ... From the technical specifications, it appears that Amazon is only caching static resources such as images. While that will solve many of the cases, there will still be places that Silk could end up leaking private data (e.g., a stock photo or porn site that charges for access to its photos)."

_HOW_. Seriously. _HOW_ could that possibly happen? It _beggars_ the imagination that anyone could write a proxy server so fucked up it would serve up a photo normally embedded behind login/password/wtf screens to someone who hadn't jumped through those hoops (wait: I know people who would make that mistake. BUT THEY DIDN'T EVER WORK AT AMAZON. And they haven't been allowed to work on real browsers since the mid 1990s).

The other issues raised in the article get successively less unreasonable, but never really cross over a line to sensible. Copyright issues? You're allowed to render web pages for people who are allowed to access them. Whether that happens on a server or locally is completely irrelevant. "The more Amazon alters the content in order to increase performance, the more jeopardy they will put themselves in." But they aren't altering it, at least not altering it beyond what any web browser does in order to render it. This can happen at the server level in a shared way with Amazon's Silk mostly (not only, but mostly) because Amazon has a singular device they are rendering for (so they don't need to feed some general meta-representation through where the browser locally knows how to adapt it to the local hardware -- they can send the final, displayable result).

The article is right about the creepiness factor, and that the sales tax issues are a risk for Amazon. But I would point out that Amazon has been resolving sales tax issues that have been hanging fire for months if not years very rapidly lately.

We've got iPad 1 and 2 in this house and I use both versions for the rough equivalent of reading-the-newspaper. I've been _profoundly_ unhappy with the way the browser works in both versions -- if I leave a page and then come back to it (particularly google news) it insists on refreshing that page (which is largely unnecessary from my perspective, even if google news is serving a new version of it now. I just want the equivalent of hitting the back button). This is particularly provoking when I open up a browser window which already has a page showing, and just want to type in a new URL -- and it insists on refreshing the URL currently there.

I'm really hoping the kFire's browser is less obnoxious (I have no idea if this is normal for Safari on other Apple devices because I got converted to Firefox a while ago).

The creepiness factor is fascinating to me, however. Amazon is offering to let you "opt out" and just browse normally (but would you trust them to have implemented that right, if you don't trust them not to be creepy in the first place?). And you can get other browsers through the Amazon Appstore. They say they won't maintain personal information and they will expire information, but there is this whole issue of Mammoth Corporation knows what We Collectively Do/Like/Are Fascinated By -- and will then exploit that to sell us Ever More Crap.

I'm not too concerned about it, because I keep giving information to their recommendations service (by rating things and/or just by buying things). And their recommendations consistently Suck. I mean, _really_ the opposite of useful. I know they've gone through numerous versions of the innards (because I've known people from at least two of those iterations -- maybe as many as four, now that I think about it). I'm not convinced there's been improvement, altho I don't think it has gotten worse over time.

I guess I'd be a lot more worried about Mammoth Corporation Knowing What We Want if Mammoth Corporation displayed any real understanding of What I Want. YMMV. And I'm still a little creeped out by that bottleneck of information.

Also, I don't really believe Amazon intends to do anything with the information other than try to sell you more crap. Over a decade ago, the elf would get this manic look in his eyes as he explained that it really wasn't about being the biggest bookstore or having the most books: it was about having the _one book_ you wanted to buy, right then. This always annoyed me, because I almost never wanted to buy only one book.