Netflix Queue

Yesterday’s Wired News article on the Rise of the Netflix Hackers suggests that “Netflix claims to appreciate the work of hackers.” The emphasis in the quote is mine, because the implied skepticism strikes me as a little disingenuous, based on the content of the rest of the article, including this bit, which I see as pretty strong evidence to support Netflix’s “claim”:

“We have some fanatical followers out there, and we’re open to their feedback,” Swasey says, “especially if it helps us improve the service.” As proof of this, he cites the Netflix prize, which will award $1 million to whoever can come up with an algorithm that improves the effectiveness of the company’s movie recommendation engine by 10 percent. To give contestants something to work with, the company released an anonymized dataset of 100 million movie rankings from half-a-million NetFlix subscribers, scrubbed of personally identifying information.

Obviously, Netflix doesn’t appreciate what they might see as stealing (such as the person who claims to have cracked the beta Watch Now feature to get unlimited downloads of free movies with the service), but the majority of hacking done by this “ingenious subset of the Netflix subscriber base” doesn’t have such questionable goals. Though Netflix might be a little caught off guard when hackers reveal their secret “throttling” technique (which delivers high-demand movies more quickly to new and infrequent users) and use this information to manipulate their queuing system, they seem to recognize that these hacks drive them to innovate and make the service better.

So, if you’ve got a good (in both senses of the word) Netflix hack, we’d love to hear it. Netflix might not be comfortable hearing it, but they appear to be smart enough to realize that they’ll benefit by being pushed beyond their comfort zone.

(via Hacking NetFlix)