This was how we watched television in the 20th Century: we would crowd around the tiny TV, watching shows whenever the broadcasters decided to show them — or maybe on a VCR, where we fast-forwarded past commercials on an ever-blurry tape. When a familiar actor or actress showed up onscreen, there would be some conversation about where we may have seen that person before, but nobody could actually remember.
This is how we watch television in the 21st century: Instead of the tiny TV, we have a nice HD; instead of the VHS, we have the DVR, and whenever a familiar face, or even a “Hey It’s that Guy!” shows up on the screen, we fire up a wireless-connected laptop, because it’s time to IMDb that person.
The IMDb, of course, is the Internet Movie Database. And it’s become a verb around our house because it is, without a doubt, one of single greatest examples of how the Internet changed everything.
You’ll notice that we use the IMDb for TV watching, which just goes to show how far-ranging it actually is — even though they didn’t officially starting covering TV shows until this year, we’ve been using it their Actor search for years to discover where else (besides Star Trek: The Next Generation, of course) we’ve seen the (Admiral Cain of the Battlestar Pegasus, or see if we can determine exactly how many shows Veronica’s guidance counselor has actually killed.
You probably use it for something else entirely, and therein lies the pure genius. We use it for our research on Actors and Actresses, but you might use it for something totally and completely different, like purchasing movie tickets or discussing videogames. Videogames. Until I started researching this article, I didn’t even know they covered videogames.
The other cool thing about the IMDb is that despite its beginnings in the first (and in retrospect, way way way better) Bush Administration, it is a forerunner of two major Web 2.0 concepts that are as current as last night’s download: User-Generated Content and the Long Tail.
The IMDb exists mainly on the strength of User-Generated Content. It actually began as a posting on Usenet in 1989 which turned into a huge thread, and just grew exponentially from there. Over the past 118 Internet Years, the IMDb in all of its forms has accepted, organized and eventually vetted content from loads of people who are doing it primarily for the sake of getting that content out there for others to use.
And naturally, a resource for keeping information about older product out there in an easy-to-find manner is invaluable for a Long Tail-oriented company like Amazon, who no doubt took that into consideration when they bought the IMDb in 1998. The crossover sales potential of serendipitious discoveries while using the IMDb for research are endless.
As are uses for the IMDb itself. What’s yours?