On the 20th of February IMDb has shut down their entire discussion boards, including the private messaging system, motivating that they have been taken over by trolls and have become a liability in terms of their credibility.
The impact this has on the average cinephile is far beyond what IMDb assumed it would be and it leaves people in search of new places to discuss their favorite movies online.
Whether it was a famous Star Wars flick or just some obscure arthouse movie, the IMDb boards were a place for many to check out right after viewing a film, almost as a ritual, part of the post-viewing experience. Sometimes rewarding, a lot of times annoying due to trolls, unmarked spoilers or divergent opinions, the forums were always the best way to read up narrative deconstructions and fan theories and since 2001 there hasn’t been any other place online getting even close to getting the volume of information that these boards had.
Imagine you are watching an esoteric film from decades ago with under 1000 ratings and there’s a plot detail you just didn’t understand, which left your viewing experience incomplete, but then you go to IMDb and find a thread opened more than 10 years ago by a random user who had the exact same question. And that question was answered a couple of messages below, by someone who replied to the original thread 5 years ago. Yes, this was a common occurrence on the IMDb discussion boards and now all that, nearly 16 years of people writing their thoughts and opinions are just gone.
Not getting too dramatic, as the nature of all things Internet was never promised to be anything but ephemeral, but people have seriously been searching for new options to fulfill the need for post-viewing discussions of movies and there’s still no legitimate replacement for it.
There is Letterboxd, touted as a rising alternative, but the fact that it’s just singular comments on movies makes it not too different from the still existing review section on IMDb and doesn’t offer the interactivity the old boards had. Then there’s the option of searching for the movie on reddit, finding a thread that hopefully already entertains the subject you’re looking for, otherwise opening a new thread on an obscure old movie doesn’t have many chances of succeeding getting you the answers you need. Gutted as many are, users have even tried making their own versions now that the original boards are down, but initiatives like imdforums or themoviedb, while well intended, simply cannot immediately replace what IMDb had growing for so many years with the help of being widely regarded as the no. 1 go-to website in the world for anything related to film.
Some users have even started online petitions for the boards not to go down, now they are starting other ones for the boards to get back and mostly it seems like it was a bad decision that probably millions of people regret. However, judging from the experience of what we’ve seen the almighty Internet do, there is one rule that we can rely upon: if people want something on the Internet, they will sooner or later get it.
Photos from here and here.