I am gearing up to switch back to Netflix after a long hard trip with Blockbuster. Since I've used both the Netflix and Blockbuster online rental services recently I thought I'd help potential customers make an informed decision on which service to go for. The pricing for Netflix and Blockbuster is nearly identical so it really comes down to features...
Blockbuster has 40,000 titles while Netflix has 50,000. I honestly haven't noticed much of a difference in selection between the two services. Unfortunately both services seem to have issues with availability. One third of the movies in my Blockbuster queue right now are "Short Wait" or "Long Wait". If you are looking for mainstream movies you shouldn't have problems with either service, but if you are looking for "Cowboy Bebop" or "Reno 911" you'll probably have issues with both services.
How long it takes a DVD to get to you will probably vary greatly depending on how close you are to a distribution center and how the mail runs in your area. I had to wait a full week a few times when I was with Netflix and I'm almost positive the holdup was on Netflix's end. Blockbuster has the occasional five day shipment too so it's not quite perfect either.
SEARCHING FOR MOVIES
Blockbuster really falls down horribly in this area. Netflix's website looks and functions much better overall and Blockbuster actually has several important bugs that I reported to them personally several months ago. This drives me crazy because as a web developer I know how easy it is to fix this. One huge bug in Blockbuster's website is their terrible search. No matter what you search for it will only return four pages of results. It doesn't let you know that their are more results of course... you just assume Blockbuster doesn't carry your title. Another massive bug is that when browsing categories it will only show eight pages of results so it is literally IMPOSSIBLE to find "X-files: The Complete Sixth Season" without typing in the exact phrase "X-files: The Complete Sixth Season" into the search box. Call me crazy but it seems like you should be able to search AND browse for a title in this day and age rather than neither. Blockbuster needs to take five minutes and fix this terrible search and browse system!!!
Winner: Netflix (Blockbuster gets an F)
Netflix offers a fast and flexible queue system with tools to easily bump movies up in your queue with a single click and an excellent mouseover feature that shows extended movie details (even the boxcover!). Netflix also has a handy button to move any movie to the top of your queue which I really miss while using Blockbuster. You'll notice another Blockbuster bug when you try and move a movie up higher in your queue by typing a new number. It will shift movies all over the place and even break up sets of movies. Trust me, the first time you receive disc 5 of a TV show before disc 1 shows up you'll be pulling your hair out too.
The ratings and recommendation system of Netflix are much clearer and better organized than Blockbuster. Customer reviews -- and more importantly the ratings and reviews of your friends -- are all available to you when browsing through flicks. You can also browse a friend's queue and easily send them a movie that you enjoyed so they can pop it in their queue. If you would like to have multiple queues under one account you can do this with Netflix which is good if you have kids I suppose.
It's clear that Netflix is really trying to build a strong customer community by allowing you to interact with your friends and other members while Blockbuster just tacks on some disjointed tools without any of the relevant features.
Blockbuster gives you two free in store rental coupons each month and a "buy one get one free" coupon for previously viewed DVDs. This is definitely nice for those impulsive times when you just feel like grabbing a flick at the store.
If you can put up with a terrible website (and I do mean TERRIBLE) and a lack of any real community features than Blockbuster is worth a look since you get two free store rental coupons each month. On the other hand, if you can't stand the constant aggravation of dealing with a broken system, want to share with your Netflix friends or want a better selection you'll go with Netflix.