For cinephiles there is no site greater than the Internet Movie Database, which is frequented by three and a half million of them every month. But don't be fooled by the name, the IMDb contains information beyond the topic of cinema; it has details about television shows and video games as well. For instance, a simple search on someone with a diverse career like Mark Hamill will not only show his legendary role as Luke Skywalker but also his lesser known roles as Kent Murray in General Hospital, the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, and Detective Mosely in the video game Gabriel Knight.
Created by Col Needham
, the IMDb was first made publicly available on October 17, 1990 and is one of the oldest entities on the Internet, predating the World Wide Web
as we know it. Originally it was posted to the Usenet newsgroup
rec.arts.movies as a set of Perl
scripts designed to search an existing list of actors and directors compiled by members of the newsgroup. At the time it was known as the rec.arts.movies movie database. In order to search the database, one needed to download the scripts and run them in a Unix shell
. Because of this, in its infancy the database was only available to those who had access to a Unix computer.
In its first big step towards making the database accessible to anyone, an email
interface was implemented in 1993. Users could email an inquiry and a server would email a response. Also, a web
interface created by Rob Hartill was brought online at Cardiff University
, however this was before Mosaic
. Mosaic was the first modern web browser
and though there were ways to access the web (through a Unix shell), very few people had this ability. At the time, 100 users in one day was a big deal. But as the internet continued to evolve, and with the sudden popularity of the web, this became the place to get information about movies on the Internet. Today, the website is accessed a thousand fold.
In 1995 the identity of the database went through an immense change. It was realized that the database had outgrown its humble beginnings at rec.arts.movies and now utilized several facets of the Internet (Usenet, email, web, etc.) so its name was changed to the Internet Movie Database. Also, use of the database was skyrocketing. It wasn't that people were simply accessing information, the main problem was that too much information was being submitted, which overwhelmed bandwidth
, server power, and volunteer time. Because of this, the powers that be decided to incorporate the IMDb as a business, which allowed them to use advertising revenue to pay for server space and bandwidth. The volunteers who contributed to the database became the stockholder
s and retained their roles in the transition from Internet community to online business.
Even though the data was never for sale, IMDb management received several solicitations. Though, fear of what would come of the database kept them from selling. That is until Amazon
contacted them, who wanted to site for advertising reasons. They were about to start selling DVD
s and video tapes. Amazon would underwrite IMDb in exchange for advertising real estate, or "Buy this movie" links; database would stay the same and would continue to operate free of charge for users.
I could be here all night describing each of the scores of futures offered by the site, however, it should suffice to say that the IMDb is, hands down, the ultimate reference for motion picture trivia, from cast listings to filmographies, from plot summaries to memorable quotations. Still growing with nearly 400,000 titles, 1.3 million entertainment professionals, and oodles of subordinate information, spanning from 1892 to the present, the IMDb is by far the largest listing for visual media on the Internet.