God knows I’m not a big believer in all things 2.0, in fact, I’m not much of a believer in anything 2.0. However, amidst the muck and dreck there are some winners, and more importantly, underlying all the new rounded corners fanciness it’s become clear that the future of the Web is about open platforms and data sources all able to talk to each other. Flickr is better than Kodak Photo Gallery because they made it so easy for me to get to my photos through not only their site, but on my blog, Facebook, etc etc.
Before there was 2.0, in fact, before there was really dot-com, there was IMDB, the Internet-hosted paradise for film geeks. I won’t see a movie without checking it’s IMDB score, and upon seeing one I’ll instantly dash off to read the trivia, and give it a rating myself. At a dinner party if a movie gets mentioned and a debate about some actor starts, the laptop comes out, and off to IMDB we go (at a friends’ house I’ll usually just kwiry the movie instead, since they seem to find it rude if I go get their laptop just to prove them wrong). It’s been that way for a decade or more, and unfortunately, nothing much has changed.
Amazon bought IMDB some years back, integrated shopping in a not-so-bad way too. IMDB launched “pro” but it’s really for people in the movie business. So rather than involve the community and become the de facto source for all movie data across all Web sites, IMDB sits on their closed, controlled, protected database, and sits on the sidelines as competitors emerge.
Want to build a movie app using their data? No problem, you can license it here (and here’s their data format, mercifully updated from CSV into XML in the past few years). There are discussion forums, but no RSS feeds to get the conversation elsewhere. There is a “my movies” feature, but if you want it integrated into your blog, you have to use their widget (preview it here) which allows for zero customization. There is an unbelievable wealth of data, a literal treasure trove of it, and it’s all locked away in their proprietary site.
Part of me thinks that after Amazon bought them they reduced the technical staff down to one or two people, who spend their time making sure the site works in new browsers (see? just like 1997!). Part of me thinks there’s some crazy person in charge who believes keeping things status quo is the way to win. I’d like to think there’s some big plan on opening up the platform (remember: open beats closed!), enabling richer applictions to emerge, and IMDB will escape its position as film nerd haven.
But most of me thinks the whole darn thing is locked in some server farm somewhere and nobody can figure out the captcha to get back in.