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Update: This post has been updated with clarification from Netflix about the API changes.
Netflix made some pretty significant changes to its developer API Friday.
The changes rip away key pieces of information that could be useful for third-party Netflix applications. [See update below] Developers can no longer distribute/use content from any other video service other than Netflix or for search and discovery of content linking to competing services. This more or less kills all usage by “TV guide” apps, such as the wonderfully useful Matcha.tv. There are also new restrictions on viewing/rental history and when titles are allowed to be displayed within a third-party service.
“We have been evolving our API program to focus on servicing the rapidly growing universe of these devices used by our more than 26 million streaming members globally. As the API program evolves with the business, we now need to make some changes,” Netflix writes in a developers blog post about the changes. “While we will continue to support third parties as they develop and offer Web sites and applications that interact with Netflix, these changes are designed to do so in a way that is aligned with our broader objectives.”
Those objectives apparently include severing its ties with anyone not directly affiliated with the company. The company’s new usage terms states that developers also can’t make money — directly or indirectly — through usage of the API. I’m wondering where this leaves hugely popular web service InstantWatcher, a site that pulls in anonymous viewing habits of Netflix users to show the most popular, newest, and oldest content available through the streaming portion of the service.
Update 6/18/2012 (10:32 a.m.): A Netflix spokesperson pointed out some errors in our initial description of the API changes.
Apparently, the company wanted to make sure other services were not using meta data (video description, rating, etc.) on videos from competing services, as this information was developed by Netflix. It’s also clamping down on the resale of data to other businesses, but not prohibiting developers using the Netflix API from monetizing directly from consumers.
The full statement has been pasted below:
- We will continue to provide catalog information, queue capability, expiration within a two week window as well as the possibility to deep link to a title.
- We are not prohibiting sites from showing competing services, however we do not want anyone to use Netflix content such as titles and descriptions to advertise a competing service.
- We’re not prohibiting developers from monetizing their applications by selling them directly to consumers. We will not, however, permit resale of our information in a business-to-business fashion.