I noticed a friend of mine (Jordan L.) who had half-star ratings (2.5, 3.5, etc.) on Netflix. When I asked him about it, he said to just “hover over the left side of the star” to get a half-star rating. This didn’t work for me, so I thought it might be a Linux vs. Windows thing and asked another friend (Mike F.) to try it out. Same result – didn’t work in IE or Firefox on Windows. Then Mike found a JavaScript file that could be installed with greasemonkey and that worked fine for him.

I’ve yet to install greasemonkey, and I don’t like the idea of installing JavaScript on my system unless I’ve thoroughly analyzed it, so I thought of another way.

I installed wireshark on my Ubuntu Linux box and sniffed the network traffic to Netflix when I rated a movie. After some experimenting and removal of extraneous info, I came up with the following URL to rate a movie with half stars. This specific URL will rate the movie “The Incredibles” with a 4.5 star rating (probably a bad example since The Incredibles clearly deserves a 5 star rating):

http://www.netflix.com/SetRating?widgetid=M70001989&value=4.5

To rate other movies, simply replace 70001989 with the id of the movie which you can find by hovering over the movie. I believe you’ll need to be logged in to Netflix already for this to work.

Now as to why Jordan can rate half-stars without the aid of a greasemonkey script, that’s still a mystery.

Update: got an email from Jordan explaining that his Netflix pages include the following two JavaScript source files:

src=”http://www.netflix.com/layout/jscript/dom_starbar_v2.js?v=126505″
src=”http://www.netflix.com/layout/jscript/dom_starbar_halfstars.js?v=126505″

I only have the first one, and from the name of the second one, I presume that’s the one that gives him the special half star rating capability. I guess Netflix favors Jordan over me :(

Update 2: mystery solved! My curiosity got the best of me so I contacted Netflix. The rep said they’re running a test and Jordan just happened to get picked (I didn’t mention Jordan, but I suppose they looked through my ‘friend’ list)! They do that periodically to test features to see if they’ll give them to the unwashed masses. I asked if they could run the test on me, and he said it didn’t work that way :) So I guess it’s the greasemonkey script or the inconvenient URL hack for the rest of us.