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MovieLens is a recommender system and virtual community website that recommends movies for its users to watch, based on their film preferences using collaborative filtering. GroupLens Research, a research lab in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, created MovieLens in 1997[1] to gather research data on personalized recommendations.[2]


GroupLens also formed a commercial venture called Net Perceptions in May 1996, which had clients including E! Online and E! Online used Net Perceptions' services to create the recommendation system for,[2] while used the company's technology to form its early recommendation engine for consumer purchases.[3]


The website bases its recommendations on what the user provides to the website, such as movie ratings, to find what movies other users with similar tastes prefer.[1] The system compares the user's ratings to those of other users with similar tastes, and then recommends films that the user has not yet seen. When a user looks for a specific film on the website, the system returns a prediction of what it believes the user will rate the film after watching it.[4] The website suggests that users rate as many films that they have seen as possible so that the recommendations given will be more accurate, since the system would have a better sample of the user's film tastes.[2]

In addition to movie recommendations, MovieLens also provides information on individual films, such as lists of actors and directors. Users may also submit and rate tags (a form of metadata, such as "based on a book", "too long", or "campy"), which may be used to increase the film recommendations system's accuracy.[2]


By September 1997, the website had over 50,000 users.[2] When the Akron Beacon Journal‍ '​s Paula Schleis tried out the website, she was surprised at how accurate the website was in terms of recommending new films for her to watch based on her film tastes.[4]


  1. ^ a b Schofield, Jack (2003-05-22). "Land of Gnod". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ a b c d e Ojeda-Zapata, Julio (1997-09-15). "New Site Personalizes Movie Reviews". St. Paul Pioneer Press. p. 3E. 
  3. ^ Booth, Michael (2005-01-30). "How do computers know so much about us?". The Denver Post. p. F01. 
  4. ^ a b Schleis, Paula (2000-11-13). "Site Lets Everybody be a Critic". Akron Beacon Journal. p. D2. 

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