The High Tech Behind Netflix’s Old-School DVD Service [The Verge]

The High Tech Behind Netflix’s Old-School DVD Service [The Verge]


September 25, 2023 | There was a point in the late 2000s when it seemed like every mailbox was stuffed with red envelopes. Netflix shipped a billion DVDs by mail between 2007 and 2009 alone, with its loyal fans overwhelming the US Postal Service by returning 1.6 million discs every single day. Almost every film ever made, available via next-day delivery, with no late fees: that formula didn’t just drive Blockbuster into bankruptcy but, for a moment in time, completely redefined how movies were watched.

This week, after 25 years of operation, Netflix is sending out a final batch of its iconic red envelopes to its remaining DVD subscribers. On Friday, Netflix’s subsidiary will close its doors for good. The end of DVD-by-mail has been a long time coming, to the point where Netflix’s April announcement of an impending closure almost felt like a throwback to bygone, pre-streaming times.

But as old-school as Netflix’s DVD business might sound, the service has been anything but low-tech. In order to send out more than 5 billion discs to millions of subscribers over the years, the company deployed cutting-edge automation, embraced machine learning before it was cool, and laid the technical and financial foundation for what would ultimately become the massive, worldwide streaming business Netflix is known for today.

Read more on The Verge.
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