Are you a Netflix guinea pig?

I am. And so are thousands of other subscribers of its streaming service, probably many thousands.

Basically, a few months ago, without warning, Netflix took away a customizable feature called the Instant Queue, and replaced it with a "list" that's hardly customizable at all.

"HATE HATE HATE that you have taken away my Queue..... I HATE the new set up," SharonF posted on a Netflix message board three months ago.

"The new queue sucks. I want my Instant Queue put back immediately!" HughB repeated 16 times a dozen days ago."

About a hundred other commenters expressed similar displeasure, with almost no one happy about the change.

The Instant Queue is a text-based list that lets subscribers easily add and rearrange films and TV shows. Want a TV show to be first, third or 37th on the list? You can do that - if you still have your Instant Queue.

A few months ago, select subscribers stopped seeing "Your Queue" in the tab choices at the top, and instead starting seeing "Your List" in smaller type below, above the top row of thumbnail images. Clicking "See all" brings up a page of thumbnails for the films and TV shows once picked for the queue.

The new look was no big deal. Lots of online services have been changing their designs to be more compatible with smart phones, tablets and other devices. A text-based queue can be tough to read on a phone, after all.

But Netflix also took away the power to rearrange, creating a time-waster for many of us who frequently use the service.

There's no longer a place to type in a desired rank, no more button for "move to top," no new option to drag and drop.

At the same time, how to remove shows, or how pick a particular episode to watch, got much trickier.

Netflix says the ultimate goal is to better serve its customers.

"This is quite a big test, with a number of variants of the queue and various names," emailed Joris Evers, director of global corporate communications for Netflix. "... We always run these type of A/B tests where different groups of members get different experiences, sometimes very small differences, sometimes larger differences, and we always look at which experience drives more Netflix usage."

"A typical test can take several months and we measure different test 'cells' (the variants) and compare results, we then would roll out the winning experience to all our members," he wrote.

But customers, who weren't advised of any test or given any helpful tips, were left perplexed about what changed, and what they could or couldn't do.

While the revised look is fine on a PC, where you can see a dozen thumbnails at a time, it's a pain in the you-know-what on my iPhone and Blu Ray player. (Netflix can also be streamed on game consoles, HDTVs, home theater systems and special streaming devices.)

Used to be, if I wanted to watch an episode of X-Files on my TV, I could move the show to the top of queue on my PC, and it would move to the top on other devices, too.

No more. Now I have to scroll and scroll on the phone, or wait for show after show to load on my Blu Ray player, then click an arrow button over and over on my remote.

On my PC, I can now change the order to "alphabetical" or "genre" or "Netflix recommends," but that doesn't carry over to other devices either.

It's not just me.


A workaround is that if I click on a show on my PC to start it playing, that will move it on my phone into a top row titled "Continue Watching." but the old order still persists on what the phone still calls Instant Queue and on the Blu Ray player.

Hey, if this description makes your head spin, you're only beginning to understand how annoying the experience has been.

For weeks, I thought there was no way to delete a show from the list. Right click? No "delete" option.

Right click the show you want to get rid of? It starts playing and moves to the top of the list - just where you don't want it.

But, wait, I randomly discovered this weekend that there is a way. When the cursor hovers over a thumbnail, a popup shows a description with a pointless button that reads "In your list." (Duh, I was looking at my list. I know that.)

Ah, but if I hover the cursor over that button, it changes to "Remove X." Tada!

Not intuitive at all.

Netflix also seemed to take away an intermediate screen where I could pick a particular episode.

Now, for me, clicking on the list thumbnail starts the show playing - maybe all the way back at Season 1, Episode 1. While it's playing, it's possible to find and click an icon on a bar at the bottom that let you select episodes.

Hardly an obvious or user-friendly change.

But, wait, what's this? Again, a random discovery. Here's what you do: Hover the cursor over the list thumbnail. See at the end of the description where it says in little red type, "More info"? Click that and up pops a page where episodes are easily chosen.

Netflix says anyone unhappy with the changes can call customer service at 1-800-585-7265 and request to have the Instant Queue back.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or