Downloading movies from the Internet may be cutting-edge and very quick, but it's not a moviephile's dream by any means. You have to figure out a way to connect your PC to your TV (or else watch movies on your computer, like a total nerd). The quality is fairly low. The selection is poor. The 24-hour window for watching is draconian. And you don't get any DVD extras (director narration, omitted scenes, and so on).
For millions of people, online DVD rental shops are a much better bet. Granted, it takes longer for the DVD to arrive in the mailbox than for Mr. & Mrs. Smith to download to your hard drive off the Net, but you still don't have to dig up your car keys.
With 55,000 DVD movies in stock and high-speed shipping that can deliver a DVD to your door in about one business day, Netflix (www.netflix.com ) gets as close to instant gratification as you can expect from activities that involve the post office. When you rent a movie, it shows up in your mailbox in a bright red envelope; after you've watched it, you mail it back to Netflix in a bright red return envelope with prepaid postage. The next DVD on your wish list gets mailed to you automatically.
The beauty of Netflix (and its rival Blockbuster, described next) is that there are no late fees—ever. You can keep your DVDs as long as you like, and watch as many as you like; your monthly fee's the same either way. Of course, it's in your interest to mail them back when you're finished (because, otherwise, you're ...