The Internet Movie Database is an indispensable resource if you have any interest whatsoever in films. Want to try and figure out where you’ve seen that character actor before? Do you need to know ratings, runtime, or quotes? But if you want to discuss movies, you’ll now have to go elsewhere: the site is shutting down its message boards system.
According to a statement on IMDB, the site’s message forums and the private messaging system will be disabled on February 20th, because they “are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide.”
It’s a bit of an end-of-an-era moment. IMDb predates the World Wide Web: it got its start in 1990 with a series of lists on Usenet and migrated in 1993. At that time, the internet was almost nothing but discussion forums. Since then, we’ve seen the rise of dedicated message forums, social media companies such as Myspace, Facebook, and Reddit. IMDb noted in its announcement that more people were going to the site’s social media channels to post comments and interact with the site.
The announcement claimed the site was providing its users with advance notice to prepare for the shutdown: “During this two-week transition period, which concludes on February 19, 2017, IMDb message board users can exchange contact information with any other board users they would like to remain in communication with.”
The decision appears to mark the latest website to question the value of forums and comments, which can require heavy moderation. Other major websites, such as National Public Radio and Popular Science, have closed their own commenting sections because patrolling them for toxic users became a costly and time-consuming chore. Furthermore, IMDb’s systems have remained largely unchanged over the years. Big blocks of text with threaded discussions feel dated compared to other film forums.