Who Will Create the Next IMDb?
By the time you read this, there’s a good chance IMDb will have closed their famous, or infamous depending on who you ask, message boards.
Two weeks ago IMDb announced their intention to close their message boards because of their belief that it no longer provides a “positive and useful experience” for most of its 250 million monthly users. In the wake of the announcement, many of those users, including myself, aired our beliefs that the move was misguided. Though the outcry spawned petitions to keep the boards alive, it doesn’t seem likely IMDb or its parent company Amazon care much at all what people think.
Instead, we see another large media conglomerate further encroaching on a free internet and doing it under the banner of “positive experience” to avoid criticism of a controversial decision that runs the risk of warding off millions of monthly users. We could also very well be seeing a disingenuous tactic designed to move conversations off of their site and onto social media platforms that elevate IMDb’s profile to wider audiences in hopes of generating traffic back to the site simply to create more ad revenue. Either way, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s time to move on.
IMDb will still be around to serve as an enormous database full of exhaustive information, but what will be gone for good is the engagement of millions of users who no longer need to bother even having an IMDb account anymore. The truth is that with Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, and Letterboxd being around to provide much of the film information most people look for; there is very little point in even having a registered account.
The biggest void, however, will be having a central place online to have conversations with other fans on specific films. And before you say “Reddit,” keep in mind that what made IMDb unique was that for just about every film released, it had its own personal real estate on the site dedicated to open discussion. Those threads also never got phased out like the threads on Reddit do each day. For over 25 years this meant that for whatever obscure movie you just watched on basic cable, there was always a place reserved on the web to discuss that specific film or lesser known actor.
A New IMDb?
If it’s one thing business cycles have shown us is that anytime a company makes a decision that irks their customers, there is always a new company that swoops in to absorb them. In the case of IMDb’s missing boards, it seems to me that there is an opening for a new expansive film board that can take the place of what’s been lost. In fact, there is also an opportunity to even improve upon IMDb’s old boards by ensuring it corrects the issues that gave it the bad name in the first place. That starts with managing trolling, which IMDb showed very little effort in doing, and it also requires adding enhancements that make it more of a draw for film fanatics than it was before. In creating a new IMDb for our current age, some of the features I think it should would be the following:
First and foremost, a new board would require professional moderation. And yes that includes the hiring of community managers that are responsible for being responsive to reports of abuses, monitoring content, banning users that harass others, and engaging the community in a transparent way.
Film Tracking & Reviewing
I’m not as big into social media as I was a decade ago but to keep new users engaged there should be some way to create a site profile. No one wants to sign up for another online profile but what if there was a way to gamify those profiles? One way this might work is to allow users to create their own database of films they’ve watched in the way the Goodreads does for books. There certainly is value in having a digital library of every film you've watched and it's also pretty fun when you can pull statistical data from your own library. Of course, there are some sites that do this, but for a new IMDb to thrive, at the very least it needs to be included.
One area IMDb’s boards lacked in was able to incorporate media. A new IMDb should have boards that allow users to post images directly as posts the same way Reddit does. In the beginning, credit leaned heavily on Imgur to allow users to post digital content but eventually found a way to allow the posting of images directly. Since so many of IMDb’s forum posts were specific to scenes and imagery from films, this should also be considered a necessary part of a new message board.
I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but I’m not a big fan of using Facebook and Google user info as the data that populates registration data. Of course, the ability to hide behind online profiles is a major part of what keeps trolling alive, but increasingly Facebook and Google are dominating online communication. It seems as if everything you type during active Facebook or Google sessions is somehow being used as data that populates aggressive advertising catered directly to each user. As comment sections disappear and are replaced with social media, this trend continues to ratchet up and shows sign of slowing down. In a new board, I think it’s important to keep a layer of privacy alive to guard against this.
As IMDb mentioned in their statement, they have over 250 million monthly users. That’s a lot of people that probably have their own opinions on what a new IMDb should look like, and those are the precisely the ones that should be giving their thoughts.
Here at Box Office Buz, we are interested to hear what you think a new film message board should look like. Please give us your thoughts in the comment section below because we do want to hear what you the users, think.