A Brief History of the IMDb

The lists that continue to be the backbone of the Internet Movie Database existed before October 17,1990, the fifteenth anniversary date we celebrate this week. They were originally collected and maintained by a hearty group of movie fans who frequented a Usenet group (a text bulletin board) called "rec.arts.movies." The lists included the credits for actors, actresses, and directors, as well as biographical entries for moviemakers who had passed on (known back then as "the 'dead' list"). But we mark the date because on October 17th, our founder, Col Needham, wrote a series of Unix shell scripts which made these lists searchable. The ability to search existing data is one of the key components of the Web experience, and it immediately made the lists more meaningful and useful. Though the new name was still six years off, the Internet Movie Database was, in essence, born.

In September 1993, the nascent Internet Movie Database Web site launched and was the first site on the Internet dedicated to movies. For five years, the lists continued to grow and were served off of university computers and mirrors such as one in Cardiff University Wales. Everything was improving. The submissions were growing in no small part because the process to make those submissions was changed to a centralized e-mail interface.

In 1995, facing ever-growing data additions, mounting traffic, and further demands upon the staff, which was still all-volunteer, the IMDb faced another crossroads. Col Needham quit his job and put the bill for the first server for the site on his credit card, additionally incorporating the company. The IMDb was legitimate.

1998 proved to be the same as it had three years prior. Traffic and data submissions were growing at such a terrific rate that the capacity of the volunteer server space was quickly being exhausted. The volunteer staff was inundated with submissions as well, often overshadowing their for-pay jobs; we appeared to be victims of our own success. But the volunteers continued on without pay because they knew they were doing something they were passionate about, something they felt was of value.

Someone else who thought that their work was of value was Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, who understood what we were doing and exhorted us to keep doing it. He purchased the site, which allowed the largely volunteer staff that stayed on to receive a paycheck for their efforts.

In the ensuing years we have strived to keep the IMDb timely, useful, and accurate. We have broadened our focus to include, in addition to the ever-growing data, photos, current events, upcoming and independent films, and news.

In response to a rising need we saw from the professional filmmaking community, we launched our Publicity Photos Service in March of 2001 and IMDbPro.com in January 2002.

In our last 15 years we have enjoyed the camaradarie and hard work of hundreds of thousands of participants with the site. It is due to everyone's hard work, attention to detail, and love of movies and media that the site is what it is today. The founders and staff cannot thank those who have contributed, corrected, criticized, coerced, and (sometimes) complimented us enough. This site is a testimony to the power of this medium and the power that movies have to inspire and to create a community. Here's to our next 15 years together.