Whenever I watch a film with a difficult plot twist, or complex structure, I'll view the movie's message board and it's kind of amazing how often another film goer will start a discussion about the same questions I have. I'm going to really miss that.
Unfortunately, these days the number of people using the boards is dwindling. And in many cases the discussions going on there are evidently not living up to basic standards of civility. Where does that leave the vaunted institution of IMDb's message boards?
Was a time when IMDb's message boards were very lively indeed, but anyone who's visited in recent years has seen a steep decline in quantity and quality of discussion.
I don't meant to be snarky (in this case) but learning those things is not that hard...and not that different then the way you use a regular website.
It sore of like what happened circa 2000 to usenet.
But the message boards for individual films and TV shows are some of the most invaluable resources for entertainment discussion on the entire Internet - removing them is going to hurt IMDb, and it's going to hurt film discourse. There's been more times than I can recall that I've seen a complex film or television show and immediately logged in to the IMDb forum for those titles and joined the conversation or read what other people had to say about them. That's all going to be gone, and that's a real punch in the gut to the film and TV fans this site has catered towards for the past 15 years.
These are fair points, but you do not have the whole picture: only the tiniest minority of customers read those boards and an even smaller set post there. The type of unique and insiteful content you describe mostly* belongs in the permanent parts of IMDb like in user reviews, trivia, goofs, plot synopses and the FAQ feature for titles and in the various biography sub-sections for names. These are sections which are used by hundreds of millions of users and are nearly all on modern platforms (we still have some work to do). This type of content can be fully be fully included and made searchable across all of IMDb's interfaces and services. Boards discussions are an unmoderated mix of fact, fiction and outright trolling which is ephemeral in nature, and is only really available on our desktop site (our mobile site has limited boards features some of which in turn are accessed by our apps).
Just keeping the old boards software running and the time we spend dealing with the fallout from abuse on the boards is preventing us from creating better features that benefit all users and from adding permanent content to IMDb.
Can someone on the inside explain to me how important the message board feature is to the company?
As gromit82 indicates, the message boards are not a core function of IMDb. IMDb has over 250 million users per month and only the tiniest fraction of those visit the boards and even fewer post on the boards. The boards therefore make up an insignificant percentage of overall IMDb page views. It is difficult to specifically sell advertising against message board content for obvious reasons so the only ads which run there are low price run-of-site banners at the top/bottom of a subset of boards pages where we would typically only earn revenue if a customer clicks-through and signs up for whatever is being advertised. On the other hand, managing the boards and operating the technology behind them is disproportionately costly since the board systems are so old. While we do not comment in detail on specific aspects of IMDb's business, it is easy to draw the obvious conclusion behind the financial cost vs. benefit of the boards system.
From a traffic, resources and expenses perspective IMDb would be much better off without boards. There are some community benefits though and boards without a significant troll population flourish with interesting discussions and genuine community which is why we keep them around. Due to technology limitations we have to enforce an expiry policy on most boards so much of the discussion is temporary and therefore valuable content is often lost to keep the system operational. We are always looking at better ways to preserve this type of content and we have some thoughts on providing better mechanisms to transfer useful boards content into the permanent parts of the database.
From a traffic, resources and expenses perspective IMDb would be much better off without boards.
. . . it is easy to draw the obvious conclusion behind the financial cost vs. benefit of the boards system.