Netflix API Ditching DVD Endpoints to Focus on Streaming

When the Netflix API turns three in October, it will also be making some big changes. With a focus on the quickly growing streaming service, Netflix will remove access to its DVD-related API calls. That means any websites or mobile apps that help organize your DVD queue will switch to only providing results that are available on its Netflix Instant streaming service.

The announcement post lists affected endpoints and provides this reasoning for the changes:

As of Oct. 14th, 2011, the Netflix API will be focused exclusively on offering content and functionality from the streaming catalog. As a result, we will be discontinuing the support of DVD-related features in the Open API. These changes are in an effort to better position the Netflix API towards the company’s long-term goal of internationalizing our streaming experience.

Both the REST and JavaScript APIs are affected, focusing the entire API on Netflix's directory of streamable content. However, the full Netflix streaming experience still isn't available via the API. "The API is a discovery engine," Netflix's Daniel Jacobson said in a phone interview. The public API does not provide access to the actual stream, but rather the titles that could be streamed and the metadata associated with those titles. Streaming on specific devices is a separate partnership, usually between the device manufacturer and Netflix. The JavaScript API does provide a play button to send users directly to the Netflix streaming experience.

When the Netflix API was first announced, the focus was much more toward queue organization, a reminder of how much things have changed for online video even in the last three years. "If you can perform a Function on the Netflix website, it’s likely available via the REST API," wrote Netflix's original API announcement. This is no longer the case, as it appears the website will be the only way to organize the queue or access all of the content available from Netflix. The company's own iPhone app has been completely focused on streaming for some time.

The changes are bound to affect many developers and mashups, which is probably why Netflix is providing a third of a year to make the updates. Even once the DVD-related APIs are discontinued, the endpoints won't return errors. "Our goal is to make the transition as smooth as possible by gracefully degrading as many of these deprecated features as possible," Jacobson wrote in the announcement post. Where possible, the API will return streaming content, even when DVD content is requested.

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