Yahoo! Predictalot Goes Global, Takes On World Cup 2010

Predictalot , a massive crowdsourcing experiment cooked up in Yahoo! Labs, is going global. This time, you can predict almost anything your heart desires about the World Cup in South Africa, like whether Germany will advance further than Brazil or a team will win that has never won before. You can compose any of millions of predictions and sell them any time for virtual points, even in the middle of a match, just like the stock market.

We ran the first version of Predictalot in the U.S. for the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament known as March Madness. Nearly 50,000 people placed 100,000 predictions. To our delight, we found that people went well beyond picking ordinary things, like who will win, to construct a huge array of highly customized predictions — selecting 10,000 different kinds of predictions, including almost 4,000 “3-D” predictions that compared one team against two others, like “Butler will advance further than Kentucky and Purdue.”

The latest version of Predictalot, now available for the global audience of World Cup fans, has several new features:

  • You can create a group and challenge your friends to play, or join an existing group of like-minded players.
  • You can track how your predictive acumen stacks up in each group you belong to and overall across the globe.
  • You can watch streaming updates of what other people are predicting in your social circle and around the world.
  • You can view live match updates right within the app for your convenience.
  • You can choose from millions of predictions, but don’t worry, the on-screen wizard guides you to easily find and customize the exact prediction you want.

Our goal with Predictalot is to take the wisdom of crowds to the extreme by computing what all these different predictions, taken together, say about the likelihood of each of the 28 trillion possible ways the tournament could unfold. Predictalot is an example of what is technically called a combinatorial prediction market, a new kind of market made possible only now that computing power has increased so massively. Predictalot represents the evolution of markets in the digital age, empowering users – in this case football and soccer fans, though this could apply to other types of users like online advertisers –  with extreme customization. More and more, matching buyers with sellers — the core function of markets — requires sophisticated algorithms, including machine learning and optimization. Predictalot illustrates this trend in an entertaining way.

Bringing Predictalot to life has been a truly interdisciplinary effort. On our team we have computer scientists and economists to work out the market math (see our previous write-up for a look under the hood from a science perspective), and engineers to turn those equations into something real that is fast and easy to use. Predictalot is built on the Yahoo! Application Platform, an invaluable platform (open to any developer) that makes it easy to create engaging and social applications for a massive audience.  Yahoo!’s extensive cloud allows us to pull our global content and deliver it quickly to our worldwide audience.

And we owe a great deal of our success and exposure to the cooperation and support of other well-established Yahoo! properties like Fantasy Sports and Games.

We’re excited about this version of Predictalot and hope you join us as the matches begin in South Africa. We invite everyone to participate, though please do keep in mind that the application is in beta, or experimental, mode. (If you prefer a more polished experience, check out the official Yahoo! Fantasy Sports World Soccer game.) We hope Predictalot is both fun to play and helps us learn something scientifically interesting.

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