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Movie site joins face-lift trend

The Internet Movie Database gets a face-lift and adds a variety of new features, the latest in a string of established sites to change their look.

    Everything old seems to be getting new again on the Web.

    The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) this week got a face-lift and added a variety of new features, the latest in a string of established sites to change their look.

    In the last few weeks, ESPN relaunched its popular site with a new network-oriented design, Web community Tripod rolled out its new look, and Web veteran HotWired went through its fourth revision.

    With the quick-changing feel of the Web, sites often update their appearance as part of an overall effort to stay fresh and look new to users. Notably, Net giant Yahoo has kept its design consistent and watched as countless others have copied it.

    As for the IMDb, "The redesign is something we've wanted to do for over a year now," Col Needham, founder and managing director of the site, said in an email interview. "The old IMDb site evolved over the last five years and, although there were many updates, we never really took a step back and thought about the whole browsing experience.

    "The new site is a radical update with greatly simplified and consistent navigation, plus smaller pages for faster loading," he added.

    Among the new features are "video covers or poster images," for "several thousand [movie] titles, and thousands more will be added over the coming weeks," Needham said. The IMDb carries information about more than 150,000 movies and is updated continuously, according to the site.

    Another addition to the IMDb is a "daily page with a quote, movie, trivia question, and feature of the day," Needham said, noting that "it's also available via email subscription."

    Part of what led to the overhaul of the Internet Movie Database was its acquisition by online retail giant Amazon.com in April.

    "Being part of the Amazon.com group of companies means we have the resources to vastly extend our existing lead over other movie Web sites," Needham said.

    It also means a greater focus on e-commerce. Users who search through the database for an actor, film, director, or any other subject get a page full of information, and a link to buy related books and soundtracks. There is also a button for "Videos" with a "coming soon" tag; Amazon has made it clear it intends to extend its product line to videos in the future.

    Needham said the IMDb has sold videos since 1996, with Reel.com as the vendor. Amazon took over as the site's merchant when Reel.com's contract expired in August. "The books and soundtracks are a natural progression," he said.

    For now, clicking on "Videos" leads the user to an Amazon.com page that boasts: "Amazon.com and IMDb are building a world-class video store," and calls for comments from users as to what they want in an online video store.

    Amazon.com also solicited comments and suggestions from users when it built both its music store, which launched in June, and its classical music store, which debuted yesterday, according to Amazon.com spokesman Bill Curry.

    "Everything we do is intended to enrich the e-commerce experience for the shopper," Curry said. "Part of that is getting input from customers as to what they would like to see on the site."

    He noted that Amazon.com received "thousands of suggestions" for its classical music store and implemented "many, many, many" of them. He declined to give a time frame for when the firm intends to launch the video store.

    Needham said the IMDb is already receiving feedback from its audience.

    "As with all major design changes, we expect it will take a while for the long-time users to become accustomed to the new layout," he said. "However, many people are already mailing in having discovered all kinds of features which had been present on the old site for years but were hidden by its clunky design."

    The IMDb, which has been online since 1990, grew out of a newsgroup as the Web began to take hold.

    "I'm very pleased that it's grown from such an informal project, started as a hobby, into a major international Web site and business," said founder Needham.