In the span of 3 years, some 40,000 teams from around the world took up Netflix’s challenge of improving movie recommendations by 10% over the company’s Cinematch engine. And just a day ago, one of these teams has claimed the top prize and the $1,000,000 that go with it. This team consists of the 2007 and 2008 progress prize winning team BellKor from the USA, Austria’s Big Chaos team, and Canada’s Pragmatic Theory team. Until recently, the teams were competing against each other unable to reach the 10% improvement threshold but they put an end to the competition when they joined forces.
Other teams now have 30 days to submit their solutions and outdo the top team for a chance to claim the top prize for themselves; keep an eye on the official leaderboard here. Can others do it? Well, you never know so it will be an interesting 30 days.
I have to admit that a couple of years ago I really didn’t think that this day would come. I was certain that the 10% improvement had been selected by Netflix to prevent people from ever claiming the million dollar prize. I guess, I was wrong after all.
That said, I am currently reading Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams’ best seller Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything and I think the Netflix competition would make for a great story for this book. It is yet another example of how computers and the Internet allow thousands of people across the globe to collaborate effectively and efficiently to solve problems at a fraction of the cost of a single corporation doing the work in house. I don’t know how much money in Research and Development Netflix will save from this competition but I suspect they stand to make a lot of money from the 10% improvement in recommendation accuracy. They will certainly make back the prize money in no time (if they haven’t already considering that improvements over 7% have been achieved by many teams over the course of the last 2 years.)
Kudos to the teams for their achievement and kudos to Netflix for taking a chance most corporations would never dare take.