As soon as Netflix started offering video content to the PC, Roku, TiVo and Xbox 360, I have been hounding them to give me details on what settings are being used for the encoding. At the risk of annoying them with too many e-mails, I'm happy to see they have agreed to make this info available and do a great job in really drilling down into the details. (thanks Steve)
While many probably think that only video "nerds" would care about the info, these are details that everyone should care about for one major reason. Quality. That word is probably used in this industry more than any other to define what type of video experience a viewer gets, yet typically there is no definition on what the word means. As more HD content becomes available, headed discussions are only going to ramp up about who is offering the best online video quality. In order to truly be able to compare one video clip to another, you must know how the clip was encoded. While two videos may look the same and have the same aspect ratio, (window size) one could be encoded with a different codec or at a higher bitrate, thereby making it impossible to compare fairly.
Knowing what bitrate, codec and settings were used in the encoding allows us to fairly and accurately compare one video offering to another. I hope other content others follow Netflix's lead and will give out the details on their encoding specs as well.