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Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly


Interesting back-channel email conversation with Phil Torrone: "i talked to hb from imdb. here's what i told him i'd to do with an imdb api / access to some of the data...

1. Fastr-like game for movies. If you've ever played Fastr, you're addicted - it pulls in Flickr photos and you guess what they were tagged with - you compete with others, and it's way too much fun. For IMDB, I'd do the same, you get photos of actors, directors, stills from movies, etc. You can guess a variety of things, it's timed, you can have teams, etc - you could do ads on and between rounds, a quick "buy the DVDs/etc you saw here". This could also make a good mobile game for phones.

2. IMDB "Connect" - A Telephone patch panel-like game. On one side of the screen you'd have actors, directors, movies, towns, photos, etc, the other - the things they match to. You'd use your mouse and plug cables to and from each side, competing for speed, with other teams, etc. I'll probably use Flash for this one. It would be a fun game for a Tablet PC.

3. Movie trivia screen saver-like application. No one likes the lame trivia slides in the movie theaters, I'd make my own version for the MS media center PC and MythTV. You'd download it and it would play on your PC / Mac connected tv, just like the movies. I'd also insert weird local slides/ads, like "jimbo's taxidermy" for comedic effect and maybe some real as (free ad-supported version?).

4. Second Life "SceneIT" game - there is a popular (real) game called Sceneit. It's a dvd/board game that uses movie clips, has trivia and all that. but it's hard to get people together. second life can do everything Sceneit can do, and IMDB could sell it as an object/game in world. seen-it uses some of the IMDB data now. Second Life is a good way to do collaborative, branded, movie game with video, avatars and chat -and- charge money -and- have the people who buy it make money other than this - people play a game called captions in Second Life now, and it's a hoot.

5. IMDBbot - just like our MAKEbot on, but i'd like to chat with a little bot and quickly get the movie or actor i usually forget, usually at a bar it seems.

so that's what i would do, if you love your data set'em free.

HB liked a lot of these ideas, but said he needs people to implement them! (He wrote: "IMDb is hiring experienced software developers in both our Seattle and Bristol, UK locations, with a focus on Perl, AJAX/Mason/MySQL expertise. It's a fun gig in a rich area with lots of interesting opportunities in search, discovery, tagging, social networking, gaming, AI, expert systems, blogging, and text analysis.") But it seems to me that if Amazon would implement the IMDb API Phil is asking for, all the implementors wouldn't have to work for Amazon! (Amazon is the owner of IMDb.) (HB -- excuse me if the API is already out there.)

I have two questions for my readers:

  • What would you do with an IMDb API? (Or if you were working for HB doing cool stuff at IMDb.)
  • What other internet data sources would you liked to see opened up for mashups?

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Comments: 23

Leon Brocard   [05.05.06 05:47 AM]

While it's very Web 2.0 to provide APIs, a lot of the data provided by IMDB is available to download as easily-parsable text files. There's nothing stopping you hacking these ideas up already!

MrChucho   [05.05.06 07:21 AM]

Oooh! An IMDb IRC bot would be nice! If IMDb does add an API, I hope they use REST like Yahoo! does. It makes for quick and easy development.

MJH   [05.05.06 08:20 AM]

The data is already available via FTP in various flat-file formats, for import into MySQL or otherwise...

Josh Peters   [05.05.06 10:28 AM]

I'd love to see a snarky bot written that assumes it is better than you are as it answers your questions. Some sort of online Simpsons Comic Book Guy. At that point the web would be effectively replace trolls...

scott evans   [05.05.06 10:33 AM]

allmusic! Which would be fantastic.
Unfortunately, I think it's pretty unlikely.

(here's an old blog post of mine about this.)

Chris Spurgeon   [05.05.06 03:31 PM]

It's a simple thing, but I'd like to have custom RSS feeds, so I'd know when new information has been posted about a favorite actor or film.

Julien Couvreur   [05.06.06 09:15 AM]

To me the most important thing that IMDB can contribute to the web is a good movie and TV shows identification solution. In other words, they should be the ISBN for movies and shows.
Ideally, you'd want multiple sites starting to rely on this identity: a TV guide site, a movie showtimes site,...
I don't have a good idea how they can get there, but I think it's worth aiming for.

Jan   [05.06.06 04:27 PM]

They already provide a lot of data via FTP and text files. But check the licenses first! They are very restrictive, not mesh-up friendly.

Will   [05.06.06 09:13 PM]

That's easy. Mobile access. Hundreds of times I've been out with a friend. At the theatre or simply out on the town. The question usually comes up "What was that actor?" or "What other movies was he in?" I'd love to be able to query IMDB via my cell phone.

Dave   [05.10.06 02:53 AM]

Dunno if maybe this has been done before, but how about a "Baconizer"?

Enter the names of any two actors, directors, key grips, whatever and find the chain of persons+movie appearances that connect them.

Tim Almond   [05.11.06 08:35 AM]

I had an idea for a mashup between the BBC listing data (which is already available) and the IMDB for rating data, which could show a user any good films coming up on the BBC channels over the next few days.

At the moment, it would mean loading up the IMDB data into a database, which I think would break the rules. It could also be developed to allow for further filtering so I wouldn't be bothered with anything directed by Michael Bay, but could prompt me for movies starring Monica Belluci.

reeses   [05.19.06 06:50 PM]

I've written apps using the IMDB data, but the negative thing about doing so is that the license prevents me from doing just about anything commercial with it. So, instead of swapping information with the world and actually creating useful content, I end up swapping information with about 50 friends. There are lots of bits of structured data that the IMDB lacks that are easy enough to add with a quick Rails app.

If they opened up the data with a free-ish license (even charging CPM for queries) they'd have a lot more support from the development community.

David Kaspar   [06.05.06 10:25 AM]

Display my recently reviewed movies on my blog.

@will: have you tried Google mobile?

Tim   [06.27.06 07:32 AM]

You can now get imdb on your mobile. The site is sponsered by Motorola and and the link is
I was so excited to find this. I am forever forgetting the name of an actor or a director and wish I had an imdb link in my brain. But this is the next best thing.
Tre cool.

Tudza   [08.04.06 06:59 PM]

I'll have to try out the Motorola site.

I just finished posting a cell phone interface to IMDB to my web host for my own personal use. It uses IMDBPython. There is a link to the code on the site.

You can check it out at if you like, but please don't use it too much since it sounds like IMDB would object. Besides, the cast list is still messed up. I decided I could live with it, but I don't expect anyone else to like it.

Hugo Salgado   [10.20.06 11:07 AM]

I developed a film's critics site. It would be great to obtain the movie details from IMDB, and be displayed on our site, with a link for "more info" to the imdb's site.

Karsten   [10.21.06 04:49 AM]

I'd write an app to manage my DVDs. I've already got such an app but it doesn't fit my needs. But I have neither time nor the urge to enter all movie data personally.

Uno de Waal   [01.27.07 11:22 AM]

There are probably loads of ways to leverage IMDB's database, it would be great if you could simply send it a string and it returns all the necessary info for you, so that it basically acts as a repository database for all the movies, but uses a lot of other sites to create interesting mashups (since they don't have that massive database)

Harry Johnston   [03.19.07 09:49 AM]

I would want to create a program that could import my movie ratings from other sites.

I doubt IMDB would like that because they have silly teenage girls and geekie fanboys skewing the ratings all the time.

But, it would be nice to see all your movie ratings in one place.

James Higginbotham   [04.01.07 04:50 PM]


I would create a site where fans of tv shows and movies could create custom playlists and surveys. Think of it as Squidoo-meets-MySpace-with-Amazon-book-lists. The net result is a community of tv and movie fans that create episode guides, playlists, "rate your favorite episode from season xyz" surveys, and discussions on tv episodes and movies.

Coupled with Unbox, it would seem that Amazon could expand further into media while offering the data up for free to anyone that wants to use it. Then, make this additional data available via the same API or an embedded Javascript tag so that rabid bloggers could add their favorite lists and episode guides to their site. It would seem a win-win for site authors and Amazon/IMDB.

Amazon, feel free to contact me to make this a reality :)

priyanka   [06.27.07 07:29 AM]


i want to use imdb api for photos and images so wil you plz guide me how will i do this.can u give me the path how i got this



Lucas   [10.19.07 05:31 AM]

I will create the IM bot, Ok?
At this moment we are already testing with Amazon data. Add to your MSN and start testing. (or in Skype)

Shawn Smith   [01.02.08 05:11 PM]

I'd use it to build a powerful movie recommendation engine and win the Netflix Prize.

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