By 1989, Needham was a regular contributor to the rec.arts.movies bulletin board. “Most of the users were male, American college students.” He smiles... “So what was the most frequent topic of conversation? ‘Who is the most attractive actress and what films can you see her in?’”
After another member of the group began to compile a list of films that starred actresses like Michelle Pfeiffer and Kim Basinger, Needham coded some software that would import the list into his own database and spot any missing titles. He then sent the updated list to the newsgroup.
As the list grew, more and more bulletin board users began adding to it and Needham decided to share the Unix Shell Scripts he’d written to create his database with the other users.
As more and more film fans began to contribute, sexy actresses were soon joined by actors, directors, producers, composers, even set decorators.
“Within a few weeks I was getting messages from people saying, ‘We love the database. But have you thought about adding screenwriters?’ I’d say, ‘Great idea! Would you like to manage it?’”
The volunteer army was global: film fans as far-flung as America, Germany, Australia and even Iceland contributed to the snowballing roster, simply for fun.
It’s a model that continues today, with IMDb users able to collaborate electronically with the full-time staff who manage the site. They work together to verify credits information and keep on top of the latest movie developments for films that are in-production.