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Does it sometimes seem like Netflix knows your taste in movies better than you do? The Financial Post has run a fascinating article that takes a look at the sometimes laughably complex algorithms Netflix uses to recommend movies and genres to its users.

In the article, Netflix’s chief technology officer, Neil Hunt, explains that curating its large catalog of mostly older content is one of the primary tasks of the company. Says Hunt:

“Out of the thousands of titles available there is a subset that is interesting to each individual . . . If we know enough about the content and the individual’s taste we can put those two together and make something that’s more compelling than random choices or the most popular ones.”

Netflix employs a few dozen freelancers who watch and tag videos for the company’s recommendation algorithms. Each piece of content in the company’s library carries more than 100 tags.

Todd Yellin, Netflix’s VP of product innovation, says that mathematics beats humans every time when it comes to predicting customers’ movie tastes. Says Yellin:

“[Hiring movie experts to recommend films] fails miserably next to an algorithmic approach . . . You get your best people to come up with those lists and they don’t do very well. What does much better is a combination of metadata and clustering.”

Netflixing Insiders, is it comforting or a bit disconcerting to know that your movie recommendations are coming from very complex and well-informed computer programs?

[via The Financial Post]


3 Responses to “An Inside Look at Netflix’s Recommendation Algorithms”

  1. Member [Join Now]
    Shemp Howard [shemp-howard]

    Science loves me yes I know…
    because my slide-rule tells me so. ;o)

  2. Member [Join Now]
    FREE-FLIXSNOW [free-flixsnow]

    Like so many companies, targeting your prospects is critical in cost control, so nothing new here, all smart companies will aspire to target their customers with specific offers to their taste, especially in a deep recession like this one.

  3. Member [Join Now]

    As a NETFLIX customer it’s great when finding older movies I’ve been wanting to see; but to be honest, I don’t never browse the recommended movies in the streamable lists created, I pull from the Instant Que. The movies I place on the que are movies I search for by name. I have found difficulty finding titles ever since the streaming filter stopped searching DVD ONLY titles. Now I’m forced to purchase DVD rentals just to have access to the data of movie titles that aren’t offered in streaming. My family and I have made it a custom to gather around the TV daily to watch shows and movies, NETFLIX has become a corner stone of entertainment in my house and its very affordable. I enjoyed the older NETFLIX better and hope I’ll be able to research the whole movie title database in the future instead of this.