Netflix Wants to Crowdsource Captioning for Its 50,000 Videos

by Knowlton Thomas

Have you ever tried using closed captioning on your television out of curiosity, or perhaps as a novelty, or maybe in a loud mall—or, of course, if you're hard of hearing? Then you know that the captioning technology can be less than accurate and often frustrating. And that's when it's actually available—often it's not.

Netflix is experimenting with a way of captioning that could greatly improve the accuracy of video captioning. Or it could totally ruin it. Hence the whole "experiment" wording.

The video streaming company is now soliciting a limited number of volunteers to join its subtitling community project on a video captioning platform called Amara. A Netflix spokesperson told GigaOM that the company "is committed to accessibility" and had decided to conduct this "small scale, early stage test."

In this case, captioning's increase in accessibility is likely less about appealing to deaf customers and more about making North American and English-spoken content appeal to countries where consumers speak French, Spanish, and Portuguese—overseas markets where Netflix is experience fresh, rapid growth. Both effects will be welcomed warmly, though.

If successful, this project would also reinforce the incredible powers of crowdsourcing. Already a popular method for design work and startup funding, it seems that the power of the crowd knows no limits.

And while Amara has also demonstrated some of the capabilities of crowdsourcing, Netflix could be its biggest project ever. In total, Amara's community has subtitled just over 100,000 videos. Netflix has a library of nearly 50,000 movies and television shows in its US library alone. Clearly, this would be a massive boon for Amara—and Netflix, and the crowdsourcing space.

Los Gatos, California, United States

With more than 15 million members, Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] is the world’s largest subscription service streaming movies and TV episodes over the Internet and sending DVDs by mail. For $8.99 a month, Netflix members can instantly watch unlimited TV episodes and movies streamed to their TVs and computers and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. With Netflix, there are... more

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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