Peerflix falls down


I've written a few times about Peerflix the P2P DVD trading system similar to some of my own ideas. After trying it for a few months, I have to report trouble.

As I feared, as a DVD drops in popularity, it means somebody will be stuck with it. I feel it should be the original contributor but in Peerflix, it's whoever happens to have traded for it most recently. Back in April, I got in 4 DVD trades for high quality movies 1-2 years in age. In particular for Momento, Mystic River, School of Rock and A Mighty Wind. I have been slow to getting to watch these, so I've gotten to see just how many chances there have been to return them.

In 2 months, we've seen just a couple of requests for Momento and Mystic River. In all those cases, if I didn't respond to the request within a short time, a few hours at most, somebody else would send off their copy of the disk and I would remain stuck with it. Of course since I have not yet watched Mystic River, I may have just not been motivated enough to say yes. Today I got my first request to send off A Mighty Wind and did not agree in time. I have not ever gotten a chance to send off School of Rock.

Now for "new releases" this is not the case. The DVDs I contributed that were recent and in high demand did get requested quite quickly. But the lesson quickly learned is that if you want to watch a slightly older DVD, you truly are buying it rather than borrowing it. If rapid watching is your goal, trading off a recent DVD for an older one will leave you in the lurch.

Now it's true that at video stores, they say that only new releases really draw the volume, so this perhaps is no surprise. But it's also not a very workable system. I was debating recommending my family in Canada join up, but with the smaller membership group there, I fear it could be even worse. The cheaper plans from Netflix or other competitors make more sense.

Update: I don't watch DVDs very often due to my MythTV always having good HD shows in it (once you have HD it's hard to go back to regular TV or even DVD) so I've seen frightening patterns. Peerflix put out a recommendation for Memento on their blog, so I now get requests for it moderately often. However, in the past 8 months, I have barely seen any requests for Mystic River, School of Rock or A Mighty Wind, all top-rated films if a few years old. And none of the couple of requests I have seen for these films have come when I was around -- and I've only been away perhaps 15% of the time at most.

Update2: School of Rock was finally requested in December, I got the Pianist in exchange. Probably another long-term camper.


I'm curious why you seem surprised at this outcome. Given that most folks prefer to watch newer movies, I can't see how this wouldn't happen. Did you think it would not?

I'm not just being flip - I'm genuinely curious why you thought this would work in a useful fashion for someone (like yourself) who wants to watch other than the latest release.

Sorry, I linked to the earlier posts on peerflix that go into great detail on this. I was expecting this, and wrote quite a bit about how Peerflix should differ in order to deal with this situation. I wasn't expecting it quite as much, since these are all top rated movies, including a best picture nominee from just 2 years ago.

Anyway, it's now clear that the pure-trade method is not effective. Even on new releases, as the demand drops somebody will be stuck with a disk. It costs a bit more postage and overhead, but I think that disks should go back, when you're done, to the original contributor, though that contributor can have the option of letting you "hold" the disk (at risk to herself, based on your good reputation) for the next person to desire it. The key is, you put the burden for the low demand disk on the contributor, not the unlucky person who asked for it as the demand dropped.

It's strange that no-one would request "School of Rock." There's a movie that's fun to watch and isn't dependent on your mood.

Oh, yeah: "Memento." :-) :-) :-)

Over all my experiences with Peeflix have been very good, and I am actually in Canada. I don't know about in the states, but in canada, I am even getting requests for older and/or crappy movies. "one mans trash..."

I think that I've read that Netflix manages to use something in the high 90 percentage of their entire library in a given month, thanks to their recommendation system to help people find older movies worth checking out based on their preferences.

I think that Peeflix implementing that would almost make it perfect. The only other thing that would make sense (apart from sticking undesirable movies to the original provider) is some kind of Peerflix buyback program, where we can send seasonal and/or lame movies to peerflix for partial credit or something...(there should be some kind of incentive not to do it, or they would get overwhelmed I'm sure)

just my $0.02

-= Joe

I'm not sure what they would use to finance the buyback. They have little use for a movie nobody wants, and the whole point of the P2P system is to avoid having a lot of infrastructure for sending movies in and out of HQ. Might as well just "store" them with either the last user (if trusted not to cheat) or of course send them back to the original contributor, who after all has the case and liked the movie enough to buy it anyway.

One other problem that's hard to solve here is the use of discarded disks from rental stores. I'm not saying it's bad to contribute used DVDs, in fact that's the way you should enter Peerflix. But some of the DVDs sold by Blockbuster have been through a heavy rental life and while they're fine for a collection which will get a few viewings, I don't know if they are ready for a continued trading life. I think buying them on eBay from ordinary owners makes a lot of sense, of course you could be getting them from video stores on eBay and not know it.

I'm having the OPPOSITE problem; I can't seem to get many DVDs from Peerflix (I only gotten ONE so far). I've had "the incedibles" on order for quite some time (the system shows 33 available) but no one will send it. I also have other DVDs on order, with dozens showing as "available" but Peerflix states that the "available" number is just the number that are in the system but not necessarily the number that people are willing to send. (HUH?) Anyway, I've purchased DVD credits but can't get what I want. Peerflix is starting to become quite disapointing.

Between a DVD you have in your library and one you are ready to release to others. So once you get a DVD, it is immediately "available" though I suspect they have you last in the queue for sending to others. Then you get e-mails saying somebody wants your DVD. If you just got it and haven't watched it (or have had it for a long time and haven't watched it) you just ignore those e-mails.

If it is ready to go, you must act quickly to say you will send it by tomorrow. (In theory you can take that as an incentive to watch it tonight and send it by tomorrow but that's risky in terms of breaking your promise to send it.)

So yes, you will see many available disks without so many people being ready to send.

There's another site like this but it's free and you can trade dvds, cds and video games...


I am getting shafted by Peerflix and they wont listen to my complaint. I just want them to listen and ask the age old question - "What can I do for you sir?" or "How can I helo you?" or, god forbid, "What do we need to do in order to make you happy so we dont have to face your wrath, sir?"

Help me dude...Help me!


Hey all, great discussion. It's funny, I never realized that the customer service on Peerflix was so bad. I wonder why? It seems like they have the cash to do better.

Anyways, I just wanted to mention our trading site It has recently expanded from Textbooks to DVDs and Video Games, so if you have a moment come and check us out.

We do a considerable amount of things differently than everyone else - like integrated shipping, guaranteed trades, instant credits up front when you list items...and I'd be interested in your feedback.

Thanks, Elliot

Hi All,

I see that timeliness of either trading out or trading in items is a problem with Peerflix. Is there any quality problems out there? This is another problem I foresaw - people trade off movies of lower relative value. Why would you trade off your favorites?

We're working on a new startup iLetYou that is aiming to change the way that you rent, in the process fixing many of these complaints. Sign up for a Private Beta invite when we launch:

I am curious about everyone's thoughts on these issues.



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