Since its founding in 1997, Brickset has gone on to become one of the most popular LEGO databases on the internet, with a catalog of 9288 sets and more than 250,000 monthly visitors. Brickset’s founder, Huw Millington, recently spoke about his interest in LEGO, the hobby in general and of course, the website itself:
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what sparked your interest in LEGO?
My name is Huw Millington and I live on the south coast of England. I was a big fan of LEGO as a kid in the ‘70s when sets didn’t have minifigs and trains ran on blue rails. I had quite a long ‘dark age’: it wasn’t until my first daughter got to the age when she could start playing with LEGO, in about 1995, that I dug out my childhood collection and, shortly afterwards, bought Technic set 8868 Air Tech Claw Rig, for myself of course J
How did the idea of Brickset come about?
In 1995 the internet was in its infancy but nevertheless there were quite a few LEGO sites out there, I guess because technology and LEGO go hand in hand in many ways. I used to participate in the Usenet newsgroup rec.toys.lego and learned a lot about LEGO availability across the world, and in particular country-specific promotions whereby certain sets would be available from Blockbuster Video in the UK, or Shell petrol stations in Holland, for example. However, there weren’t any websites actually recording this information so that it was easy to find later on. So I started noting it all down and publishing it on my personal home page, along with images of the sets in question. From day one I’ve been helped by Grahame Reid, whom I ‘met’ in rec.toys.lego. Grahame maintained his own (offline) set database so it wasn’t long before this was incorporated into the site, to make it an all-encompassing LEGO set database.
The domain Brickset.com was registered in 2000 and in 2001 the content was moved off my home page and onto a dedicated site. The rest, as they say, is history.
What position do you feel Brickset serves or holds within the LEGO enthusiast community?
I like to think it’s the premier LEGO database out there, a cornerstone of the community! Sure there are others, but Lugnet and Peeron have virtually died of neglect and while BrickLink is an extremely useful source of information, it isn’t really an easy-to-use reference database. There are some 43,000 registered users, and the site gets around 250,000 visitors a month at the moment, so I must be doing something right!
With the growing popularity of Brickset, is working on it as fun as it has ever been or is there more “work” involved now?
I suppose there is more ‘work’ now, but it’s work that I enjoy doing, and would probably be doing even if I wasn’t running the site: coding, photography, building and reviewing sets, keeping up to date with news and so on. I do however find that I spend a lot of time on the site and don’t seem to have much left for MOCing: I haven’t built a decent MOC for ages!
Over the last few years the number of LEGO general/shopping news sites has increased considerably, as you will no doubt have noticed, and I do think there is more pressure involved now than there used to be: pressure to publish breaking news or LEGO bargains before anyone else, pressure to keep the database up to date and so on. Although users pay nothing to use Brickset, they still expect it to be up to date, and if it isn’t they will go elsewhere.
What do you think the future holds for Brickset?
I hope to continue running the site and to grow the number of users for as long as I can! There are a number of challenges ahead, however, such as the shift to viewing the web on mobile devices and the increasing expectations of users who are used to the rich functionality found on the likes of Facebook. I plan to address these issues and continue to enhance the site’s functionality in response to users’ requests, and hopefully ensure it remains in its position as a cornerstone of the community.
What are your thoughts of the current state of the LEGO hobby in general?
It’s never been better. LEGO continues to innovate and acquire new licences which draw in more fans, particularly adults, and that has to be good for Brickset, and the community as a whole.