the candler blog

Letterboxd, The Dissolve and Decentralizing the Queue

Movies, Technology

Scott Tobias, Editor at The Dissolve, yesterday:

Today, we’re excited to announce that Letterboxd has developed a widget for The Dissolve that will make it that much easier to share your ratings and opinions with fellow readers. Below the information box on every review page, you’ll find a Letterboxd widget for each film that will allow you to add your rating, look at a graph of all ratings site-wide, and see which of your friends have seen it, as well as options to add it to your Watchlist or write a review.

Letterboxd co-founder and site “Director” Matthew Buchanan filled in some blanks as well:

This is the first of what will become multiple types of embedded content from Letterboxd. It’s not available beyond The Dissolve just yet, but if you have a popular site or blog that you’d like to include this sort of content on, please get in touch.

Normally, this wouldn’t be newsworthy to me, but it’s notable because Letterboxd has long been teasing a public API. Clearly they’re getting close to it.

If you don’t know, Letterboxd is a social network for filmgoers.1 You can rate and review films, follow people with interesting tastes and make (or follow) lists of films around, say, a certain subject, actor or cinematic movement. Here’s my now outdated list of Criterion Collection titles, for example.

Letterboxd took me awhile to get into, but earlier this year I got on board. It’s nice to look at, offers a decent mobile experience2 and treats movies the way I think about them. The site allows you to mark a film as seen, rate3 and review it or “like” it. You can also log when you saw a film, if you’ve seen it before and add tags to that particular viewing. The one data point I’d love to see added is theater location a la Foursquare.

What I really like about this integration with The Dissolve is that it points the way for Letterboxd as a decentralized repository of cinematic taste. While the site doesn’t actually play movies, it makes it one-click east to get to Netflix, Amazon and iTunes to view films while browsing. It allows me to rate films according to my own tastes without the consequence of training something like a tailored Netflix queue.

By allowing movie sites to integrate directly with the service, users can fill up their Letterboxd “watchlist,” which is exactly what it sounds like, while reading a review of a film anywhere on the Web. That’s a very cool trick, one that promotes both the viewing of movies and the reading about them. What I like best about that is that it undercuts the quantification of film quality that sites like Rotten Tomatoes foster.

So sure, today it’s just a widget on one site. But Letterboxd has been slow to add new features and was even in private beta for far longer than I realized. They are making patient, deliberate choices. I have a feeling they may be on to something big.

You can follow me on Letterboxd here. Happy watching.

  1. Also if you don’t know: The Dissolve is a new film outlet that launched last month by Pitchfork Media.

  2. The site offers a mobile Web site that works but could be much better. Part of the reason I’m clamoring for an API is so apps like Limelight (which may well prefer to be its own Letterboxd but what do I care?) can talk to it.

  3. On a 10 point scale out of 5 stars, allowing for the elusive half star.

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