Nobody likes website redesigns. Even when the redesigns are pretty damn good and add some sorely needed features, like most of Youtube’s, there will always be a ton of complaints for a short time afterwards from people who aren’t yet used to the changes.
And it can get annoying when websites (namely those run by Google) are constantly updating, changing around visual design and icon placement and destroying your muscle memory a couple times a year for the sake of theoretically improving its layouts.
But there is one instance where a website redesign was done with malicious intent and ended up destroying an entire internet hobby, and that’s Box Office Mojo.
Box Office Mojo, the reliable stalwart of movie box office reports and records. It loaded fast, its design was functional, and it updated right on time every day. A great website on all accounts.
From 2011 to 2019, I used this site five, ten times a week either to check out the weekend box office grosses or to check a record on a whim. The site was so functional, though, that I started using it even further for quick movie reference. It had the U.S. and worldwide release dates for nearly every film released since the 1990s, listed the studios that released them and had a nifty calendar for all upcoming films.
The site was certainly old, looking the same in 2019 as it did in 2009, but it worked exactly as it needed to, and thanks to that, an entire hobbyist community of movie box office watchers formed. There was so much data, so easily accessible, that many thousands of people became armchair analysts in their own right.
Then in late 2019, Box Office Mojo, a subsidiary of IMDB (a subsidiary of Amazon) decided it wasn’t a good enough asset and intentionally ruined the site, giving it an ugly, horrible new layout and locking half of its data behind an IMDB Pro paywall. Considering that that service is supposed to be for actual movie industry professionals and costs $20 a month, that was a nonstarter for basically the entire community.
The signs were there for a long time. Box Office Mojo stopped displaying outside ads in the latter half of the 10s, replaced only with ads for new Amazon movies or for, propheticaly, IMDB Pro. In October 2014, the site’s longtime editor Ray Subers was involved in some sort of drama that saw the entire site deleted for a single day and redirected to IMDB. It came back, but Subers left the site a few months later, and became an eerie reminder that websites controlled by massive conglomerates can disappear at a single notice, and that’s what happened here.
The site is “still around,” but it’s functionally dead, unuseable outside of the box office reports published, still, every day around noon EST.
I’m sure Amazon saved tens of thousands of dollars in operating costs to wipe out Box Office Mojo, and that’s pretty much all that matters for the massive media conglomerates that control our favorite websites, services, and franchises. Some corporate manager needed to cut costs somewhere, so they found one of their hundreds of subsidiaries, told them to add a new revenue source, and IMDB responded with the only easy choice they had.
I still keep up with the box office with The Numbers, but that site is noticeably slower, more poorly laid-out, and lacks a lot of the data its former rival had. It’s a silly hobby to begin with, but it took until the hobby became too annoying to easily do with that I realized how much of it revolved around one single website.