Netflix cuts back on expiration dates after streamaggedon

A general view during the Netflix U.K. launch in London Jan. 9, 2012. Getty Images for Netflix

In the wake of disappointment and confusion caused by Netflix's "streamaggedon" movie purge, the rental service has made changes to its API that will make it harder for third-party tools to determine when titles will expire.

The revelation late last month that hundreds of classic movies, including Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories" and the James Bond hits "Dr. No" and "Goldfinger," would soon vanish from movie fans' instant streaming queues caused a minor uproar that some in the media dubbed "streamaggedon." In response to inaccurate media reports of the number of titles involved and the level of studio involvement, a Netflix spokesperson explained that the purge was part of a normal ebb and flow on the streaming service due to licensing contracts for exclusive content.

However, to prevent further confusion, Netflix announced it will alter the programming interface to prevent the movie expiration dates from showing up in third-party tools such as InstantWatcher.com, which provides a searchable listing of the on-demand Netflix movies. The change means that one of its most popular features, known as "Expiring Soon," will no longer work.

Information listed in such tools is often inaccurate due to short-notice changes in content availability, Netflix explained late Monday on its developer blog.

Starting today, we will no longer provide expiration dates for any of our titles in the public API. We will continue to publish the field to the REST API and the catalog index file to minimize the likelihood of breaking applications that use it, although all titles will now have "1/1/2100" as the date value.

We are making this change because the expiration date can be inaccurate as a result of frequent, often last minute, changes in content flow.

However, the service promises that users will still have access to each movie's streaming expiration date via each individual title's page.

This article originally appeared on CNET.

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    Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. Before joining CNET News in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers. E-mail Steven.

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