The news is all over the Web - Netflix is coming to the iPad! For all of you doubters and naysayers, you can put away your beloved netbooks, laptops and miniature iPads (iPhones) and...oh, wait, is this true? It might all be an April Fool's Day joke that's getting repeated by trusted media around the Web?
But this Netflix on the iPad thing is the perfect example of how half-believable information can be put out there and repeated and repeated until everyone thinks it's true. And it might be.
Update: It does, indeed, look like Netflix for the iPad is a reality. Our faith in new media, the integrity of online information and man-kind as a whole remains intact, though we still don't much like April Fools Day.
Now, this isn't to say that we don't have a sense of humor about this whole day. XKCD is hilarious for us old geeks who still actually see and use command-line interfaces. And do we believe, even for a millisecond, that Opera is releasing a special edition of its browser for space? Not at all, but it's amusing.
The first to report that a Netflix iPad app would be available this Saturday, the same day as the iPad launch, was iPhone app blog App Advice, with the headline "Exclusive: It's Official - Netflix Streaming on the iPad".
Right off the bat, commentors asked if it was an April Fools joke, but the article's author gave a round-about, if evasive, denial that seemed to appease them. That and some screen shots seemed enough to pass the article on to some bigger fish, like PC World, which was then picked up by The Houston Chronicle and the Silicon Alley Insider. Endgadget and Gizmodo took the more common route of leak and rumor reporting, which was to acknowledge from the get-go a healthy dose of skepticism about the whole thing. And now, in big, bold lettering, the original article is on Techmeme, our trusted go-to source of what the tech world is talking about each day.
Our own Sarah Perez wrote about Netflix for the iPhone and iPad earlier this month, when all signs seemed to point to "no". We gave Steve Swasey, the VP for Communications at Netflix, a call this morning and he said that the company doesn't comment on rumor and speculation. He then called us back, adding that "Today's April Fools Day, tomorrow's Good Friday - let's see what Saturday brings."
This surely left us scratching our heads and wondering if either this was a great scoop or if Netflix was in on the joke.
So, in the meantime, if this is a big, not all that elaborate hoax, then it can be added to the number of other reasons people use to say that new media cannot be trusted. And if it isn't, then good on you, AppAdvice, for breaking a sweet story, but we're still going to say that perhaps April Fools Day is a terrible idea for new media and press of any kind to get involved in.
Do we see the New York Times getting in on the fun? No. Is that because the folks over there don't have a sense of humor? Not at all. It's because, in order to be a trusted source of information, we need to present only trusted and true information, as much as we possibly can, 100% of the time. Not 364 days out of the year, but 365.
TechCrunch even stepped into the mix with a story on how Google is getting into the nuclear power business. If you read the article, it's obviously a joke, but then again, how many people don't read articles and just repeat headlines? And Google is in the power business, is it not?
It is entirely because of the fact that online information sources now feel that it is acceptable to post "April Fools Jokes" that we find ourselves looking at this news in complete disbelief. Make YouTube videos show up upside-down. Turn XKCD into a command-line interface. Pretend that all Reddit users suddenly have admin capabilities. Short sheet your sibling's bed. Tie your friend's shoes together. Convince your parents you're moving to Mexico. Fine.
But if this Netflix for iPad story is indeed an April Fools Joke then its yet another blow against seeing online media as trustworthy. It would also reflect rather poorly on Netflix, a company with a reputation outside of techie circles that could be damaged if it allowed a false rumor make its way into the hands of trusted media without squashing it, simply to get more press mentions.
And on the other hand, if it's not? Awesome. Netflix for the iPad sounds great and we'd really, really love to see it on the iPhone too, while we're at it - but maybe an announcement before April 1st would have been nice.
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