Todd Yellin, Netflix's VP of Product Management, posted an apology on the Netflix blog for how they handled the removal of the Friends feature, and he explains that they're permanently removing it because only 2% of customers used the feature:
"Todd Yellin here, VP of Product Management. We fumbled the ball this week. In making some changes to the Movie Display Page we didn’t fully communicate how they impact users of the Friends feature, and we owe you that.
Friends is a feature on the Netflix Web site that’s been used by less than two percent of all subscribers since we added the feature in 2004. As a comparison, roughly 50 percent of Netflix members are now instantly watching movies and TV episodes on computers and televisions via game consoles, Blu-ray disc players and other devices that have been on the market since 2008.
No company has unlimited resources and we decided to move engineering development time and resources from a little used feature to support and maintain the things that benefit all Netflix members as the service evolves – more devices for streaming and better encoding, for example.
Unfortunately for Friends users, this means the phasing out of the Friends feature, which will continue over the coming months.
We’ve read every blog post, Tweet, news article and call log to Customer Service by those of you who are upset about this decision. To you, we apologize for not being more upfront earlier. We appreciate your passion and we understand your disappointment and frustration. Our decision is meant to benefit all Netflix members by allowing everyone to enjoy more movies and more TV episodes on more devices while still receiving the unbeatable convenience, selection and value that are the hallmarks of the Netflix service.
Thank you for your understanding."