Finally! Netflix debuts Facebook integration to see what your friends are watching

By Cory Bergman 

Over two years ago, Netflix announced it was going to “regroup” with its Facebook strategy. Then the company decided to wait for Congress to change a 1988 law which prohibited “a video tape service provider” from revealing customer information. With the law changed in January, today Netflix is beginning to roll out its much-anticipated social features powered by Facebook’s social graph. And it goes beyond simply sharing stuff on Facebook.

The first step is authenticating your Facebook account inside Netflix. By default, you’re opting into automatically sharing your viewing information on Netflix itself, and if you’d like, you can turn on the ability to share to Facebook, too.

Once you’ve linked your account, you’ll see a new row that displays your “friend favorites” as well as separate rows showing what your friends are watching. These will ultimately appear across all Netflix experiences spanning the website, mobile apps and TV apps like Xbox and Playstation:

If you’re watching something you don’t want to share, you can click the “Don’t Share This” button. While you can turn off Netflix sharing in settings at any point, I noticed that you can’t choose the granularity of what you’re sharing on Netflix. For example, sharing to “friend favorites” — which is an aggregate row of recommendations — is less creepy that exposing what you’re explicitly watching in the “watched by your friends” row. But again, you can always click the “don’t share” button — and you can “unshare” previous titles that you’ve watched.

(The new social features as seen on Playstation)

Also, it appears that you can only connect one Facebook account per Netflix account, and I have yet to see how this impacts families who use the same Netflix login. For example, my wife’s shows will be shared under my Facebook identity, and it looks like the cartoons my kids watch may be shared as well (although I haven’t tried that yet.)

Here’s a demo video from Netflix:

“We will be adding the ability to turn on these features for our US members over the coming days, so keep an eye out for them,” explains Netflix’s Cameron Johnson. “All U.S. Netflix members will have access to the social features by the end of this week.”

We’re excited to see Netflix jump into social discovery and bring the reality of social TV to millions of subscribers — in fact, this may be the largest social TV product launch to date. Clearly the upside is tremendous. An obvious next step would be for Netflix to integrate social signals into its recommendation algorithm to make its core discovery more powerful than ever. Stay tuned…