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Netflix: Everything you need to know about the original video-on-demand service

Netflix on Apple TV
(Image credit: WhatToWatch.com)

What comes to mind when you hear the world "Netflix" depends a little bit on when you were born. For a good many of us, Netflix recalls a time when red envelopes containing DVDs would arrive at our mailbox. We'd watch a Hollywood film or series, we'd perhaps burn a copy, and we'd return the DVD in the same envelope.

For others in younger generations, those previous two sentences may make absolutely no sense, and instead Netflix is known as the streaming service with original hits like Stranger Things and Bridgerton, or the streaming service you use to watch that old show your parents thought was cool back in the day.

Both of those things are — and still remain — true. Netflix is the largest streaming service on planet Earth, with more than 200 million paid subscribers worldwide. And, yes, it still even offers DVDs, to those who refuse to give up optical media.

Those are the big strokes, of course. Here's everything else you need to know about Netflix:

How much does Netflix cost?

The Netflix price will vary a little bit depending on which country you live in. But the bigger question is which plan you're subscribed to.

The most basic Netflix plan — which doesn't include anything in HD and only lets you watch on one device at a time — lands at $9 a month. The best plan, which includes 4K resolution in high-dynamic range (on content that supports it, anyway) and allows for viewing on up to four devices at once, costs $18 a month. There's plan in the middle, too, at $14 a month.

And that's not to say that those prices may not increase again someday. Netflix tends to revisit its pricing every couple years or so. Presumably there's some sort of ceiling.

And, yes, there's also still a DVD plan — two, actually — that'll mail you on disc at a time for $8 a month, or two at once for $12 a month.

Where is Netflix available?

The better question here is to ask where Netflix isn't available. Netflix itself says it's available in more than 190 countries, with the notable exceptions of China, Crimea, North Korea, and Syria.

And in the past few years, Netflix has made a concerted push to offer more "international" content. That is, movies and shows from countries that speak a language other than the native language of the country you're streaming from. And it's done so with pretty marked success with the likes of Money Heist — known as La Casa de Papel in its native Spain — or the not-quite-porn movie 365 Days from Poland. That's all possible thanks to subtitles and language dubbing, and it's definitely opened up a new world of content for Netflix's millions of viewers.

That's not to say that all content is available in all countries, however. Due to licensing agreements, a movie or series available in the United States may not be available in, say, the United Kingdom. Or vice-versa.

Netflix on devices

(Image credit: Netflix)

Can you use a VPN with Netflix?

Considering that it's the biggest and one of the oldest streaming services, you might be a little surprised to learn that Netflix also remains pretty progressive. While it doesn't condone password sharing, it recognizes that it's something people do and hasn't shut down the practice.

Netflix also is pretty tolerant of using a VPN to bypass regional restrictions. In fact, it comes right out and says that "when using a VPN to access Netflix, your region is hidden, so Netflix displays content that is available to all regions globally." That actually depends on how your VPN is set up, but the point still stands. Netflix is mostly cool with you using a virtual private network to route your internet traffic through a specific country to be able to watch content in that country.

Something about having 200 million paying subscribers maybe makes that a little easier to take.

ExpressVPN is one of the easiest and affordable ways to watch what you want from anywhere you want to watch it. Plus it'll help keep your network traffic away from any prying eyes on public networks.

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What's good on Netflix?

And that's the $1 million question. There are good shows on Netflix. There are some great shows on Netflix. There are movies that were incredible a long time ago, and movies that quickly become new classics.

Netflix also has more series and films that you've never heard of and that, frankly, aren't worth watching. That's not to say that Netflix is presenting trash on purpose — someone somewhere will think it's great. But the simple fact is that some entertainment is better than other entertainment.

Netflix filters in new movies and shows every month. Some are original to Netflix. ("Netflix Originals," they call them.) Some are movies and series you've seen elsewhere. Some are new, others may be decades old. 

That's actually a big part of what makes Netflix so great. It's not just destination TV. Sure, you can show up to binge the latest season of the aforementioned Bridgerton or Stranger Things. But you also can just open up Netflix and casually find something new, thanks to the power of the algorithm. And Netflix has gone even farther in 2021 with the addition of its "Play Something" feature, which basically is a button that will randomly serve up something it thinks you might want to watch.

You don't even have to think about finding something to veg out on.

Isn't the future great?

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for AndroidCentral.com and Mobile Nations, is the Dad part of Modern Dad, and is editor of WhatToWatch.com.