I got an e-mail today indicating that Peerflix will be (mostly) shut down on April 23. They’re basically shutting down DVD trading, but leaving the web site up. I guess they think they can turn it into some kind of news portal, or a competitor to IMDB, or something like that. I got a fair number of DVDs through Peerflix, and traded away a fair number too. Not a lot, maybe a couple of dozen discs total. I always found the service to be a bit of a kludge, but it worked out fine for the most part.
LaLa, which is a similar site for CD trading, still seems to be somewhat active. I haven’t had any of my CDs requested in a while, so *I’m* not doing much on it, but it looks like other people are still getting something out of it.
I guess you could go with the assumption that on-demand movie downloads from places like Amazon and iTunes killed Peerflix, but I don’t know if that would be quite right. That’s probably part of it though. There’s really no way to make a lot of money just off the service fees on a DVD-trading site. If it’s really well-managed, you could probably make a small profit, but it’s not going to make anybody rich. Whoever was investing in Peerflix probably just figured that out.
This all plays into the general trend away from physical products and towards just pushing bits, whether it’s music, movies, software, or books. I still think physical products, in certain areas, are going to be important for some time to come. I think people are still going to buy books and DVDs, but I think we’re moving away from renting movies in physical form, and I think we’re eventually going to move away from “renting” hard copy books. We’ll eventually get some system set up where we can “borrow” e-books from our libraries, and check them out onto a Kindle or something similar. And I think Amazon will eventually allow for paid book rental on the Kindle — maybe it’ll cost $10 to buy a book, or $4 to rent it for a month. (Feel free to come back and read this post again in five years, and laugh at how wrong I am!)