Those Eyes-A Brief History of IMDb

It may surprise you that the IMDb (the Internet Movie Database) was brought to life all because of one man's infatuation with the eyes of beautiful actresses. The popular online information resource for all things television, films and video games began way back in 1990 with a Usenet post from computer programmer Col Needham.


'Those Eyes' consisted of a list of the British film buff's favourite actresses and it didn't take long for other film enthusiasts to jump on the bandwagon. Needham's original post was met by the 'Actors List', 'Directors List' and of course, an 'Actress List'.


At the time, the lists were restricted to alive and still working in the film and television industries, but when fans began adding actors and actresses who were already retired, Needham decided it was time to expand. The 'Dead Actors/Actress List was created and the goal of Needham and his cohorts became to make the lists as inclusive as they possibly could.


Towards the end of 1990 the the lists had grown to nearly 10.000 TV series and films all cross referenced with the actors and actresses who appeared in them. In October 1990, Needham developed and released a series of Unix Shell Scripts which enabled users to search the lists and the IMDb was born.


In 1993 the ' database' as it was originally called, made it's first appearance on the World Wide Web. Taking up residence on the servers of Cardiff University, it became known as Cardiff Internet Movie Database and was run on a network of global mirrors with bandwidth donated by sponsors.  With Needham firmly at the helm and aided by his personal friends, the growing following of users were asked to volunteer, verify and confirm information that came poring into the website. This lead to an enormous surge in the data to be stored and new sections were created to include uncredited performers, production crews and all kinds of demographic data.


In 1996, the Needham's brainchild finally became the Internet Movie Database with Needham cemented in his role as owner and figurehead. Revenue for the site was generated through partnerships, licensing and of course, advertising.


The IMDb continued to grow. Col Needham found himself forced to increase advertising revenue or lose control. Eventually overwhelmed by his own 'baby' he sold IMDb to Amazon in 1989. However Needham was smart enough to negotiate the condition that operations would remain in the hands of himself and his original team,  and so ensured their positions as full-time paid staff.


The IMDb continued to grow under the Amazon umbrella. IMDbPro, a subscription service was launched at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. the German IMDb, the first official non-English version was born in 2008, the same year as the acquisition of Withoutabox, a vehicle for independent film makers to distribute their own material, and Box Office Mojo, a website that tracks and reports box office revenue.


Today, IMDb provides data on almost 4 million titles from TV, film and video, and on 7 and a half million people, including actors, actresses, directors and an almost inexhaustible array of production staff.


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