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I have two essential companions of the pandemic: cheese and a website called JustWatch.
JustWatch isn’t particularly fancy, but it tells me where I can watch a particular show or movie I’m looking for online. That might not sound like a big deal, but it is.
When I recently read about a decade old British comedy series, “Miranda”, JustWatch showed me that the series was streaming for free on the Roku Channel. It identifies which episode of Britain’s fun home builder program, “Grand Designs,” is showing on Netflix and which is missing. I wouldn’t have discovered this if it didn’t. Even Google does not disclose this information.
JustWatch is not perfect and it doesn’t cure coronavirus. But it (for the most part) solves a little nuisance of living at home.
The site exists because online entertainment is glorious – and a crumbling mess. Companies care more about their bottom line than their customers, so streaming services that distribute entertainment like confetti, often can’t figure out how they work together.
Mostly, I want to discover what JustWatch works.
David Croyé, the company’s chief executive, told me that JustWatch computers continually probe under the guise of more than 1,000 online video services and digital download catalogs from companies like Apple and Amazon. . There are tens of thousands of entertainment options that are constantly changing and changing by country.
Croyé says JustWatch has made it easier for people to “navigate a forest of content and streaming services”.
Lots of companies say they do this. Few do.
Apple introduced an online video app called TV as a hub for people to watch anything on their streaming services. Is not. For example, Apple doesn’t list options from Netflix. You will encounter similar gaps or confusion when searching for content on streaming devices like Amazon’s Fire TV. It just doesn’t work.
Netflix doesn’t want competitors like Apple or Amazon on the list of their entertainment – or they want to get paid for it. No streaming company wants to direct you to “Love & Basketball” on a rival service. Google searches for online TV shows can return untrustworthy spam.
JustWatch is an unfortunate island, in part because it’s not powerful enough to scare anyone off.
It won’t tell you what’s on regular TV tonight, and it makes a mistake. Margaret Lyons, my colleague, who writes the Watching newsletter, uses JustWatch “continuously,” she says, but sometimes finds that programs are available where they don’t. (Margaret also uses Flixable, a searchable database for several streaming services.)
Other companies like Roku are starting to promise to be a neutral streaming helper, and not so. JustWatch could have that problem.
It makes money by mining data about what people watch to fine-tune the strategy of entertainment companies. Sony studios can use JustWatch’s information to target online movie trailers to fans of horror movies.
It can be a red flag when companies monetize data rather than people who use their products. You can imagine JustWatch could direct us to watch “Paddington” on Hulu because the company pays for referrals. Croyé said it would backfire if JustWatch betrayed our trust in that way.
There’s still no general guide to the new TV, because streaming entertainment is a mess. (Have I mentioned this yet?) But for now, JustWatch feels this is the next great thing.
Is Airbnb hate inevitable?
My colleague Erin Griffith’s recent article on Airbnb tenants left me wondering again if something was fundamentally broken with the many digital services we use. .
Erin has spoken to homeowners who feel that Airbnb’s pandemic-related refunds to tenants harm their livelihoods. It made some of them realize how little power they have.
It’s hard to sympathize with those who own nice homes and rentals on Airbnb. But Erin’s report points to a fundamental flaw with the fact that all digital matchmakers like Airbnb connect well-intentioned sellers and buyers: People end up hating their gut.
Expedia matches hotels with people who want a room. The hotel hates it. DoorDash connects restaurants with people who want to dine at home. Restaurants hate that, and the couriers do sometimes. Lots of merchants selling on Amazon feel they get a short end. Some app makers feel they get a rough deal from Apple.
What Erin heard from the host Airbnb fits this pattern. The party that is offering something for sale often believes the middleman is charging them too much, introducing unfair regulations or thriving at their own expense. It’s all the same taste of grievance.
And like some restaurants, hotels and app makers, unhappy Airbnb owners told Erin that they wanted customers to come directly to them and ignore the omnipotent matchmaker.
I don’t know if it is possible to get rid of these mediators. Searching for a wide range of restaurants, accommodation or business locations in one very convenient app. And the complaints may not be justified. Airbnb, the iPhone app store and DoorDash brought in a huge customer base who weren’t there.
But with how often at least one of these matchmaking deals evolving to oppose the deal, I wonder if this is sustainable.
(Full disclosure: My sister works for a federation of hotel workers already in favor of Airbnb’s stricter regulation.)
Before we go …
Router is boring but important: My colleague, Brian X. Chen, has been testing a series of new generation Wi-Fi routers that promise to make our home internet connections faster and more reliable. Brian’s results are not surprising, but he has advice for us.
Everything is wrong with the Russian cyberattack: Members of Congress and company executives are still unsure how Russia accomplished one of the most complicated computer hacks in history, said my colleague David E. Sanger. . And it’s possible that the attackers are still wandering about on government and corporate computer networks.
Facebook is a private Department of Foreign Affairs: ProPublica reported that Facebook executives sided with Turkey’s request to block documentation of military attacks on minority Kurds rather than at risk of closure in the country.
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