Does the $1 million Netflix contest foreshadow a winner-take-all economy?


How much work are you willing to do for free?

For more than three years, teams of heavily invested and entirely uncompensated computer scientists poured their creative efforts into a goal that only a true techie could appreciate -- improving the algorithms that Netflix uses to make movie suggestions to its customers. It was called the Netflix contest, and to the winners went the spoils: the $1 million Netflix Prize.

After the Netflix contest awards were handed out on September 21, even the members of the losing teams professed that the learning experience of trying to solve the intractable problem of improving the movie suggestion algorithms by 10 percent was more far more valuable than the prize money, let alone their time spent.