Exclusive Interview with the Founder of MyAnimeList, a Colossal Site with 120 Million Monthly PVs

Fans who love anime are no doubt very familiar with the name MyAnimeList (MAL). Even in Japan, we use database sites for those times when we can’t figure out which anime we should watch next. And we too will take a peek at communities with forums, reviews, and more for those times after we’ve finished an anime and want to know what others thought of it.

MAL is a service that combines database and community aspects; it is a colossal site that receives traffic upwards of 120 million page views a month. We recently got the opportunity to interview Garrett, the founder of MAL. Read on for insights not normally divulged about the popular service’s inception, deeply interesting stories, and enthusiastic messages about the future of MAL.

Xinil's Profile

— Why did you decide to make a service like MyAnimeList yourself?

Back in 2004 there wasn't an easy way to share or list what anime you'd seen. As an avid watcher, I frequently discussed anime in IRC chat rooms, especially those that were run by fansub groups. Most anime fans like to share recommendations, and the easiest way I could do that was to create a very simple excel-like website that displayed the anime I'd see. So I started sharing my 'list' with a few friends, and eventually one person asked if I could make it so they could create their own. I was up for the programming challenge and I took up the task. Eventually more people found out about the site and made their lists to share with their own friends.

— What was the first thing that triggered your idea to make MAL?

Sharing the anime you've seen and rated was crucial to the idea and original goal when creating MAL.

— During the time between coming up with the idea for MAL and first releasing it, were there any interesting or unexpected things that happened?

One of the first biggest hurdles was populating the anime database. In the early 2000s there were thousands of anime series, and I was overwhelmed by the datas that needed to be inserted. My worries were mostly unfounded though, and I unexpectedly received a lot of support from the users that joined MAL in its infancy. The volunteers and support from the community is without a doubtthe #1 reason MAL was able to grow into what it is today.

— Can you explain what it was like when you first released MAL? How was the site, and how did you feel about the release and response?

MAL was originally hosted on my personal website running as a subdomain, and the site's title was just simply 'AnimeList.' Two years after creating the list feature, in 2006, the biggest social site on the internet was MySpace. I decided that placing 'My' in front of 'AnimeList' made sense with current trends. At the time of purchasing the myanimelist.net domain, MAL only had 228 members. A year later we'd grown to 2,000 members, and a year after that we were at 40,000 members. It was a slow start, but I knew people enjoyed using MAL, and I was confident that once the word got out, our member base would continue growing.

— Can you tell us about anything that happened whilst running MAL that others don’t know?

There was a period of a few weeks where MAL went through a name change crisis. MAL had hit a bit of growth stint in mid-2007, and a branding change seemed like a goodway to drive new users to the site. The exact reasons for this escape me, but I registered roughly 10 different domain names, ranging from AnimeAid, to OtakuJanai. Eventually the users and I came to the conclusion that MyAnimeList was the best name, and we never went through with a fullname migration. Now, nearly 8 years later, I look back and sigh with relief. A name change wouldn't have been a smart business decision, and I couldn't be happier that we stayed with the MAL brand.

— Do you have any interesting stories from when you were first meeting staff and gathering others to help run the site?

Gathering the first couple staff members was incredibly tough. There were no guidelines, and no rules to train off of. I didn't know what to look for in volunteers, so I asked for anyone that had free time and liked anime. These first moderators had a daunting task before them: to create a foundation for those to follow them later (and we pretty much made it all up as we went along). Today, we have over 40 moderators that volunteer their time to make MAL a more informative, helpful and inviting website.

— How much anime and manga do you normally watch?

Right now I really only have time to watch the more mainstream and popular series (like Shingeki no Kyojin). Up until a few months ago I was current with the Hajime no Ippo manga as well.

— If you were to tell us three anime you would like to share with others, what would they be?

I don't think I could ever recommend anime without mentioning Cowboy Bebop.
But assuming people have seen Bebop already, my other two picks are: Nodame Cantabile, and Mushishi.

— Same question, but for manga.

This is more difficult as I haven't read too much manga. I love Hajime no Ippo though, and I also really enjoyed the Death Note manga.

— Do you ever buy anime- or manga-related goods from online sites such as Tokyo Otaku Mode?

I usually buy most of my anime products at conventions. Tokyo Otaku Mode looks like it has an amazing assortment of products though, so maybe I can start shopping online too!

— Do you have any plans for the future you could share with us?

Looking at MAL's distant past, we've been guilty of growing stagnant by not implementing new features. But, I'm excited to report that in 2015 alone, we've already implemented more features than the combined development years from 2011-2014! We also have over a dozen other projects in the pipeline slated to be developed and released this year! We'll be announcing more details just as soon as we can!

— Do you have a message you would like to share with the users of MAL?

I've said it before, but I never get tired of saying it again. MAL wouldn't be where it is today without its hardworking, selfless, and passionate members. I'm thrilled that tens of thousands of people continue to find value in MAL every day and I want to thank everyone that uses and contributes to the site!

Both for MAL and for TOM, our zeal for and of love anime will not change. And above all, the driving force that continues to grow this is all of you fans reading this article. If you have friends who use MyAnimeList or Tokyo Otaku Mode, please share this article with them. We ask for your help in spreading to the world the Japanese content that brings us all so much enjoyment. We’ll do all that we can as well - after all, we’re anime fans too.


This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

Exclusive Interview with the Founder of MyAnimeList, a Colossal Site with 120 Million Monthly PVs 1
Exclusive Interview with the Founder of MyAnimeList, a Colossal Site with 120 Million Monthly PVs 2
Exclusive Interview with the Founder of MyAnimeList, a Colossal Site with 120 Million Monthly PVs 3

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