Tuesday, 27 November 2007

History of IMDb



From The Guardian:

Hooray for the internet movie database
Jack Schofield
Monday November 26 2007

You might not think a geek working from home in a village near Bristol in the UK would matter to Hollywood, but Col (Colin) Needham runs what is probably the industry's most important website. The Internet Movie Database is not just an important source of movie information and cast lists, it is also the place where more than 65,000 actors and crew members post their résumés and photos, in IMDb Pro.

In the early days, IMDb was also a beacon for web pioneers and regularly featured on lists of top sites. Before Netscape came out, IMDb was a towering example of what was possible.

That was because IMDb started before the web was invented. It grew out of a Usenet newsgroup called rec.arts.movies, where ordinary fans compiled biographies of dead film stars and directors. Over the years it added cast lists, plot summaries, photos, trailers, reviews, quotes, trivia points, awards info, user ratings, bulletin boards, show times and even movie-related games.

The data runs deep. For example, Robert Jackson was boom operator on Beowulf, Roisin Carty was the dialect coach, and the uncredited recruiter was Karen N. Sickles. How much detail do you need?

The site also allows you to shop at Amazon, which is basically what pays for it.

IMDb first went live on a server at Cardiff University in the UK, but as it became bigger and more popular, it was a struggle to keep it going as a free resource. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos solved that problem by buying the company. He wanted to expand into selling videotapes and DVDs, and all IMDb had to do was carry on doing what they were doing: serving users.

The design now looks somewhat old fashioned, especially compared with graphics-laden movie sites. However, it's fast and it does the job. That's what matters.

IMDb attracts a lot of casual visitors, partly because Google adores it. The site is almost always one of the top results for movie-related searches. However, to get the full value of the site you need to register by providing a working email address.

Registration lets you use the message boards, rate movies, take part in polls, create movie lists, catalogue your DVD collection, vote in polls and contribute information.

The voting system lets users give each movie a score from 1 to 10, which adds up to a quality rating. Is Beowulf a better movie than X-Men: The Last Stand? It's close. X-Men TLS has a rating of 7.1 based on 65,491 votes, whereas Beowulf is rated 7.0 based on 6,258 votes.

But you can also get more detailed breakdowns of the votes, which can be interesting. For example, Dirty Dancing (1987 version) scores 6.0, but it's rated 7.8 by females aged 18-29 and only 5.6 by males aged 30-44.

The best movie? The Godfather scores 9.1 on 245,531 votes, with The Shawshank Redemption - in which Col Needham played himself - on the same score. The worst is Who's Your Caddy? which scores 1.3 on 6,664 votes. You decide.

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