Former Netflix Employee Reveals Exactly How Much Your Homepage Is Tailored To You — Even The Thumbnails

Rae Batchelor
Laptop showing Netflix home screen.
Unsplash | charlesdeluvio

Basically nothing you see on the Internet was put there by accident. Our whole lives are determined by algorithms, following lists, data mining, and all kinds of ways that people get information about you without you realizing.

But did you know that not even your Netflix homefeed is safe? And I'm not just talking about the recommended for you lists.

We all know that our devices know more about us than we think.

An Amazon Alexa.

I don't know how many times I've been sitting around talking to my friend about something out loud only to open my phone and see an ad for that very thing on my Facebook feed, Instagram feed, or in my suggested results on Google. At this point, it's almost a fact of life.

But did you know that even what you see on the Netflix home page isn't safe?

Netflix on TV.
Unsplash | freestocks

Of course, Netflix shows you programs that are similar to shows and movies you already like, but did you know that even how they're showing these programs to you is a personalized decision to maximize the likelihood that you'll click on it?

It all started when one user on TikTok made a video about thumbnail personalization.

In the video, the user claimed, among other things, that if a Netflix thumbnail for a show or a movie has only one character rather than the entire cast, that that character or actor was chosen to be shown to you specifically based on information Netflix has about you.

A former Netflix employee stitched the video to set the record straight.

Someone watching Netflix on a tablet.
Unsplash |

It's not that that doesn't happen — it's that it's even MORE involved than that.

"I really like this creator but he got a lot of stuff wrong," revealed TikTok user Nile, who wrote in text in her video "hi, I did this job for 3 years at Netflix."

"Number one: all of the artwork is personalized."

The Netflix homepage.
Unsplash | charlesdeluvio

"It doesn't matter if there's one person in there, two people in there, an ensemble cast - it's all personalized," she revealed. "Number two. We design the artwork, not based on oh, you're going to like Bradley Cooper over Jonah Hill - that's not how it works. It's way more nuanced than that."

She revealed how the process is done.

The Netflix logo on the side of a building.
Unsplash | Venti Views

"We choose the shots based on: Is it more comedic versus dramatic, does it connotate science fiction versus horror, the lighting, the colouring, all of those things are by design, it's not just we pick a shot and say [...] he's gonna pick on Bradley Cooper."

"It's not based on where you live, how old you are, your gender or your sexuality."

"Netflix doesn't collect that information," she went on, adding that the decision is made based on "what you are watching and what other people who watch similar content are clicking on and responding to."

It makes sense — the thumbnail is a huge part of people's decisions in what to watch.

Armed with this new information, I will definitely be paying closer attention to who (and what) exactly is getting shown to me on my Netflix feed. Have you ever noticed anything fishy on yours? Let us know in the comments!