More than just a Database
This week’s pattern as described by Tim O’Reilly is entitled “Software above the level of a single device”, which pretty much is a case of “it says what it does on the tin”. Describing that when designing an application that you design it for use on multiple platforms in mind the value of it is increased as its use can be extended to multiple contexts. At home on the computer, at home in front of the TV or even on the bus on the way to work, to name but a few examples.
IMDb didn’t do this. In fact it started out as merely a list on UseNet in 1990 of female actors whom Col Needham described to have “Those Eyes”, as in beautiful. Nowadays however, after becoming a website in 1993 and being bought by Amazon in 1998, IMDb is a great deal more than just a database of the details of Movies, TV shows, actors and celebs. It can do all that whilst also giving you up to date info on what’s just been released, what’s showing near you, or watch trailers, rate and review movies as well as post on message boards and create “watch lists”. So while not immediately setting out to be a world class web2.0 platform, IMDb has grown and flourished into an application that has over 100 million unique users each month and a solid and rapidly growing mobile presence.
As always let’s analyse IMDb against some of O’Reilly’s best practices. Bear in mind there are several others, however I feel these three best describe the effectiveness of IMDb as an application.
- Design from the start to share data across devices, servers, and networks –
as mentioned previously IMDb was not originally designed to do this, however through gradual iterations it has become a very powerful website. Sign in on any device with your facebook, google, amazon or IMDb account and it allows you to access all your preferences. past activities and the full functionality of the application. i.e. rating, watch lists, post on message boards etc.
- Location Aware –
Once signed in with your social media account of choice, you can easily find cinemas near you and see what times movies are playing and even watch the trailer for the movie you want to see.
- Extend Web 2.0 to devices –
IMDb does a great job at this, as practically the entire website’s functionality is available through the iPhone application (can’t speak for Android as I don’t have one), which is a phenomenal design feat. The only thing I can’t seem to figure out how to do is how to create a review of a movie/TV show.
These things considered, there are a few things that do limit IMDb’s functionality and some may say reputation.
One of the greatest (in my humble opinion) things that IMDb offer our American cousins is not available here in Terra Australis. As this article over at The Register states, unfortunately due to copyright issues full length streaming movies are only available state side.
User Ratings System –
Now I’m not a huge stats fan but for some people this is a very important part of their decision making when it comes to which movie to see (as is expressed in this article over at Cracked.com). Anyone can rate a movie on IMDb regardless of whether they’ve seen it or not and even before it has come out, so naturally results can at any time be skewed. However, as with many efforts in harnessing collective intelligence, the results are likely to improve over time. Perhaps IMDb just need to think of a better way to capture and represent these ratings?
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