Netflix Prize the Sequel: Even Better Movie Recommendations?

netflix prize

The Netflix Prize was announced three years and has just ended. The goal of the contest is to improve movie recommendations for Netflix customers (and presumably increase Netflix revenue and profit). Participants were given a large data set of “100 million ratings from over 480 thousand randomly-chosen, anonymous customers on nearly 18 thousand movie titles” (read more about the original contest in the rules). The winner (and there are two possible ones) will be announced in September along with a new contest.

netflix prize leaderboard

Yesterday Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt made this announcement:

The advances spurred by the Netflix Prize have so impressed us that we’re planning Netflix Prize 2, a new big money contest with some new twists.

Here’s one: three years was a long time to compete in Prize 1, so the next contest will be a shorter time limited race, with grand prizes for the best results at 6 and 18 months.

The first Netflix Prize seems to have been an obvious success for Netflix. They got tons of PR, a lot of geek goodwill and in the end a better algorithm. However, no one but Netflix gained from the work contestants created. In a world where algorithms make or break a product it’s no surprise that the company wants to keep the work secret. However it’s really great to see the next line of the announcement.

While the first contest has been remarkable, we think Netflix Prize 2 will be more challenging, more fun, and even more useful to the field.

This could mean any number of things. However, my hope is that it leads to an opensourcing of any code and algorithms created during the Netflix Prize 2 contest. It seems likely that it could be done after the contest and that the work could really benefit the field. If this is the plan then either Netflix has changed their priorities around secrecy or the contest is not around such a high impact area of the site (or I am totally wrong). Time will tell, but it’s great to see Netflix sponsoring this type of innovation in the wild.