This week, Netflix did away with its Instant Queue and replaced it with a new and improved version called My List, which uses the service's storied algorithms to determine what people really want to watch rather than they say they want to watch.
Here is what changed: users will discover that all their selections from the outmoded Instant Queue have now been ported into the new My List.
But now the list is dynamic, its order changing to reflect the actual likelihood that you will want to watch a particular title in the near future.
After the change, I powered up Netflix on my iPad to discover that my entries were still there, but their order reflected my recent viewing history. “Orange is the New Black” rocketed to the front of My List because I had added it recently and subsequently binged on it like a dog locked in a butcher shop. Next up is “Breaking Bad,” which fits tonally with “Orange,” is a serialized pitch-black drama, and I recently did a refresher course on the show to get ready for the final season.
Because of that recent viewing history, everything else that lines up behind “Orange” and “Bad” makes a staggering amount of sense, including “The Walking Dead,” “House of Cards,” “Mad Men” and “Doctor Who,” which all ranked highly on My List. The outliers are remnants from the days before this month's launch of Profiles, so my son's fervent “Phineas and Ferb” viewing still ranks high. This, no doubt, will change, now that he has his own Profile and is making his Netflix world a magical Disney Channel wonderland.
On the other hand, My List points out the sad truth of the old Instant Queue, which is that so many choices for enshrinement in the old format were based on aspirations. “Certified Copy,” the complex European romance from 2010, resides in the lower reaches of My List, mainly because I put it in there two years ago and have not revisited it — not even to gaze upon Juliette Binoche. “Sons of Anarchy” is also down at the bottom, mainly because I downed the fourth season of “SoA” in about two days last year and haven't been back since. The algorithm is watching.
And I'll be watching right back. I'm interested to see if, once Netflix adds the fifth season of “SoA,” it roars back to the top. Sure, My List is more evidence that “big red” knows everything about what its viewers do, but I'm more likely to use this new function now that it actually reflects my habits.