Previous  |  Next



Marc Hedlund

Marc Hedlund

Netflix's personalization contest

When I saw news coverage of Netflix's personalization contest (they're offering $1 million to anyone who can improve their movie recommendation system, and giving access to movie rating data to make it happen), my first thought was, "That sounds like an IMDb mashup waiting to happen." But, Greg Linden beat me to that thought (curses!). So I'll pile on and say, I'll bet the winner isn't the one with a better algorithm, but instead the one who figures out how to join Netflix's data with some other good set of web-accessible data.

Netflix is a weird combination of great ideas and new technologies (for instance, their "instant rating" five-star system seemed like the first mass-market example of what we now call Ajax) and strangely anachronistic features (their recommendation system was bad for years, and for a long time queue reordering was like solving a Rubik's Cube). In this case, I'm surprised that the ratings database is a download rather than an API. I'd bet that if they made it an API, the $1 million dollar prize wouldn't be necessary at all. Going back to Greg Linden, that might get them better results.

tags:   | comments: 4   | Sphere It


0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments: 4

kevin   [10.02.06 05:22 PM]

I didn't think Netflix's rating system is ajax driven, not even now.

Daniel Schumacher   [10.02.06 05:29 PM]

Well, first off, pack the disks in a break-resistance clam shell!

Second, you should make it more like myspace... the current friends feature is good but you could make it easier to find others with similar taste in movies... (maybe mash up with a personals site... movies are a good way to meet people!) You should have VOIP conferences like coffee houses where people discuss movies etc (partner with Skype?)You should at least put an IMDB link on each movie. I always assumed Netflix would one day stream movies... that's rather obvious. I think a cool addition would be to put freebies which are "like" rented movies out which are on hand (perhaps old movies) that the renter is likely to enjoy. This would promote the back catalog and be a "long tail" phenom. Oh, and you could rent pornos... they are popular with the dudes. There's also an interesting vid store in Seattle called "Scarecrow". They carry a very diverse group of hard-to-find stuff. Go check them out, they are a good company to look at.

Netflix customer for 5-6 years?
43 year old Software QA Manager
Vashon, WA

Marc Hedlund   [10.02.06 05:58 PM]

Hi, Kevin,

The Ajax-y feature I was referring to is the five-star rating -- that you can click one of the five stars and record your rating without refreshing the page, but instead using a Javascript call. When they started doing that, it was not a widespread technique among sites that target a mass consumer audience. Now, it's much more common, but when they started doing it, I thought it was notable.

Another more recent example is their use of 'lightbox' confirmations. You may or may not like lightboxing, but they started doing it quite early. These cases don't show Netflix coming up with a new technology, necessarily, but instead taking great ideas and applying them in good ways for very large audiences.

(That isn't to say they don't invent things -- obviously, they do, including their business concept and the well-known efforts around their shipping envelope.)

kevin   [10.03.06 01:41 PM]

Thanks Marc for your reply. I was referring to the same five-star rating too. I think that rating click didn't involve any server side action, at least through my testing. It could very well be saved locally on your computer.

What I have believed to be "ajax" call should be: if you update your review rating, it should not only save your own rating, but also changed the overall rating of the movie in real time. That is not the case for Netflix. Take a look yourself.

Thanks again.Enjoy your blog.

Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Remember Me?

Subscribe to this Site

Radar RSS feed