The Netflix Prize will have been running for one year as of Tuesday, October 2, 2007. For those who haven't heard of it, it is a contest to make predictions on a large dataset that are 10% better than the current Netflix recommendation system. If you get to 10% improvement, there is a $1,000,000 prize. Nobody is there yet, but they are also giving a prize for the best progress made on each anniversary.
That means that the leading team will win a $50,000 progress prize on Tuesday. As I write this BellKor is at 8.26% improvement, but Dinosaur Planet is at 7.99%, and Gravity is at 7.96%. BellKor is two guys, Robert M. Bell and Yehuda Koren, from AT&T Labs. Dinosaur Planet is three guys just graduated with undergraduate degrees from Princeton, and Gravity is a team of four academics from Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary. it will be interesting to see if anyone has been waiting in the wings and not submitting until the last minute.
There is a lot of discussion about whether 10% is achievable. The only way to prove it is for someone to win, or for no winner to emerge despite lots of people banging on it for several years. I personally thing it will eventually be won. One thing that will make it winnable is that the teams have been fairly open about their approaches. They held a special track of the KDD Cup this summer, and both BellKor and Gravity were among those who published papers on their approaches. You can read their papers here. I really applaud the top entrants for their intellectual openness.