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Netflix kicks off $100K Cloud Prize competition

Developers, Netflix wants you to come up with new ways to improve the video service's features, usability, quality, reliability, and security.


Netflix wants to make the cloud a sunnier place for its members.

The video distribution powerhouse today unveiled the Netflix Cloud Prize, a competition with a total of $100,000 to award to developers who come up with better ways to deliver computing resources over the Internet. Those "resources," of course, would include streaming video from the likes of Netflix itself.

As the company points out, "every piece of the Netflix experience" for its 33 million worldwide members is delivered over the cloud, from browsing TV shows to watching movies on a variety of devices to the service's personalization and bookmark features. The new Cloud Prize aims to elicit ways to improve the service's features, usability, quality, reliability, and security.

Broadly speaking, cloud computing encompasses any digital product and service that doesn't reside solely on a person's desktop PC, laptop, or tablet but rather relies heavily -- or entirely, really -- on a server elsewhere. That can include shared Google documents, Dropbox storage, Hulu or YouTube videos, and gabbing on Facebook.

Just yesterday, Netflix announced a long-delayed social networking tie-up with Facebook through which its U.S. members can share details on what they're watching and how much they like it. Members outside the U.S. got access to that capability some months back.

"Cloud computing has become a hot topic recently, but the technology is still just emerging," Neil Hunt , chief product officer at Netflix, said in a statement. "No doubt many of the key ideas that will take it to the next level have yet to be conceived, explored, and developed. The Netflix Cloud Prize is designed to attract and focus the attention of the most innovative minds to create the advances that will take cloud to the next level."

There are 10 categories in the Netflix Cloud Prize stakes, each of which carries a $10,000 award. Contestants have until September 15 to submit their entries, and the winners will be announced in October.

This isn't Netflix's first foray into this sort of contest. In 2009, the $1 million Netflix Prize went to a team called Pragmatic Chaos that improved the accuracy of Netflix's recommendation engine by 10 percent.