Netflix API Changes Block Other Apps' Access To Viewing History

Dusten Carlson

Netflix has announced changes to its programming and terms of service. The new "fixes" will lock away your rental history, preventing third parties from seeing it. That sounds good, but the downside is that Netflix is doing it to keep its users only using applications offered by Netflix.

Netflix announced a sort of split between its disc rental and streaming features back in October. The changes stemming from this go into effect in September, as announced by the Netflix developer's blog. Part of it stems from Netflix's decision to move from disc rental to pure streaming. However, according to Arstechnica, "they also appear to prevent developers from using the Netflix library to aggregate a user's movie-watching history across competing services (combining Netflix and iTunes data, for example)—and to prevent developers from essentially wrapping Netflix's API as their own paid service."

The changes have gotten negative reception, with some developers seeing it as suicide for Netflix. One Netflix developer commented, "In essence, all the API stuff that third party developers use to make value-added applications that work better than Netflix's own site... is going away," of the changes.

The changes are even more trouble for the developers, with the unintended consequence of restricting Netflix as a paid service. Writes, "The first implication of these additions: if you decide you just want to create a 'Netflix' app, and add significant value on top of the Netflix service, you cannot charge your users for that value. You can do something positive for Netflix, but not for yourself. There is no incentive for you to build something useful for Netflix customers, and if you've already built your app, you have three months left."

And there's still plenty of reason to be suspicious of Netflix if you're a developer. The company has gone back and forth on API plans a few times, even removing functionality from the API before its blog post on June 15th.

Back in May, Netflix had settled a class-action lawsuit resulting in video history and queue data of its former customers being deleted within a year of membership cancellation.

For details on how to delete your Netflix viewing history now, click here.