A brief history of the Netflix Prize, the first big experiment in machine learning.
In October 2006, Netflix, then a service peddling discs of every movie and TV show under the sun, announced “The Netflix Prize,” a competition that lured Mackey and his contemporaries for the computer programmer equivalent of the Cannonball Run. The mission: Make the company’s recommendation engine 10% more accurate — or die coding. Word of the competition immediately spread like a virus through comp-sci circles, tech blogs, research communities, and even the mainstream media. (“And if You Liked the Movie, a Netflix Contest May Reward You Handsomely” read the New York Times headline.) And while a million dollars created attention, it was the data set — over 100 million ratings of 17,770 movies from 480,189 customers — that had number-crunching nuts salivating. There was nothing like it at the time. There hasn’t been anything quite like it since.
A fascinating look at the history of the Netflix Prize, and what it means for machine learning applications and machine learning jobs.