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Tell me about your first online project

     
7:11 am on Oct 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I'd love to hear some stories of your very first website project! What prompted you to do it, etc.

Mine was around 1996. The commercial internet was brand new, AOL was taking off, and Denis Leary was doing commercials about the future of the internet. I was 19 or 20 and had always wanted my own business, but never had the money, so this seemed like something I could do.

So I went to the nearest Best Buy or Circuit City and bought my first computer: a CTX desktop with a 1.2G hard drive, 8MB of RAM, and a blazing 28.8kbps modem, for nearly $1,000 on a credit card.

After a few weeks of playing around, I downloaded Netscape Navigator 2.0 and started building. For those that don't know, this was like an early WYSIWYG editor, and one of the biggest competitors for Frontpage. I also downloaded PaintShop Pro 3 (and I still use 4.12 today, it's my favorite image editor).

I had this brilliant idea... I was going to create an online mall, where all sorts of businesses would work together! Instead of marketing individually, businesses would be able to work with this one company who would do the marketing for them.

I bought my first domain for $200 /year, iWantItMall.com. I create a logo with an animated gif of a spotlight on either side of it, moving up and down to highlight the logo... man, I was proud of that!

And then I downloaded a web server for my computer, only to quickly realize that you couldn't run a website off of a PC with dial-up... so I signed up for hosting for $25 /month with SiteWorks. Now THAT was a quality company to work with!

To get things moving, I signed up with a LOT of wholesalers, and started building e-commerce websites for 14 or 15 different business ideas (which were all me, of course). I was building pages from scratch for every item in the wholesale catalogs, working out agreements for some of them to drop ship for me, etc. ALL orders were COD, because taking cards online was unheard of.

Then I learned that I was going to need a shopping cart, so... Perl! Yes, it's true, I taught myself how to use Perl before I had ever figured out HTML! lol I downloaded a free shopping cart script from somewhere, and then had to figure out the code to adapt it to my own needs.

My first from-scratch Perl script was a catalog for my products, using flat-text for the database. Then I rebuilt my shopping cart from scratch, setting it up to remember customer information so they could just sign in, add to their cart, confirm their info, and submit the order.

No other company ever signed on to be in my mall, of course, but over a few years one of the business ideas took off and started paying the bills on its own, so I focused on that until 1999.

Just think, if I'd had a better domain name and a few million dollars to spend on marketing, old iWantItMall could have been like Amazon! :-D
10:36 am on Oct 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Tell me about your first online project
First online experience was military. 1967 Southeast Asia working for USAF Aerospace. IBM and UNIVAC.
2:11 pm on Oct 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I had a bulletin board in 1986, but was not really used much.
The first proper internet thing was a database and search facility, and subsciber only access.
It was ahead of its time and not so many people took it on. It ended up being left to go nowhere. I was trying to think of the date and it was probaly between 1994 and 1996.
The internet didn't have enough users at that time.
2:51 pm on Oct 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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PaintShop Pro 3 (and I still use 4.12 today, it's my favorite image editor).

Same! Once I tried a more recent version, and quickly returned to the PSP 4 :)

My first online project, was in 1996, an entertainment community with something more-or-less looking like a message board :).. and this is still my main site :)

I started using FrontPage, before it was owned by Microsoft, MIVA Script then PHP 3 (around 1998 I think),
6:17 pm on Oct 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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My first paid online project was towards the end of 1996. I was living in Korea and playing around with the Internet with a personal "home page" on my ISP. The owner of a bar I frequented and a friend of his (management consultant for expats) were trying to build a web site targeting foreign businessmen in Korea and they needed someone to do the HTML for it. They were self-hosting with a Windows NT4 server and a T-1 line, sitting in the consultant's office (a typical generic office building with no support for actually hosting a server- like redundant power, temperature controlled environment, etc.). I mostly worked from home (can't remember what I used for an HTML editor- I think I was using Front Page for awhile, but got so disgusted by all the bloat it added and finally found something else), then transferred the files to the server manually in their office via 3.5" floppies.

After a few months, we were constantly locking horns about the direction it should take- they wanted it entirely behind a pay wall (although they had no plans to automate the process) and I thought it should be completely public; they wanted to cater just to foreign businessmen in Seoul and I thought it should appeal to all foreigners there. Finally, it got to the point where they said they wanted it done their way; and if I wanted to do it a different way then I should do it myself. So we parted ways. Their "site" was gone a few months later (I don't think they even registered a domain name for it- just using the IP address) and what I started doing on my own eventually became my first site (which is still online) and the basis for quitting my day job and doing that Internet thing as a full-time business.

(Side notes: A few years after the project, I heard the bar owned was killed in a motorcycle accident while on a trip to Thailand. I happened to run into the son of the management consultant a couple of years after that and asked how his father was doing. He just shook his head and called him an idiot who had no idea what he was doing.)
9:49 pm on Oct 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Put it this way: my earliest URLs began with “members.aol.com”. I've still got some of the original page files--datestamped December 1998, but some may be a bit older--deep in the bowels of my HD.

:: shuffling papers ::

:: oh, oops, this isn't Foo, but I'll post it For Educational Purposes anyway ::

This was my placeholder page, which I guess served the same purpose as a custom 503 page today. (“I’m in the middle of changing stuff, so come back later.”) I've changed one word to avoid accidental similarity to the name of an existing domain, but otherwise Not One Word Omitted.
<HTML><HEAD><TITLE>Susan's Games</TITLE>
</HEAD>
<BODY BGCOLOR="#6698FF">
<p align=center><img src=GamesHeadline.jpg height=70 width=307
alt="SUSAN'S GAMES">
</p>

<h2>Please Stand By</h2>
<p>I'm uploading revisions to this page right now.
Please come back again in a few hours.<br>
If you're using AOL's browser, you'll have to
empty the browser cache (and maybe also erase your history trail)
to force the changed page to reload.</p>
</body>
<HR size = 3 width = "100%">
<ADDRESS>Susan's Games / revised January 1999</ADDRESS>
</body>
</html>

Hoo boy.
11:34 pm on Oct 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Csdude55: I'd love to hear some stories of your very first website project! What prompted you to do it, etc.

I will gladly tell my story, I'm confused how much the forum rules will hit the tale (rules about specifics) but I just don't see about widgets. Don't mean to put work on the mods but here it goes as it was:

I wasn't aiming on websites but on photography instead. I had this project on creating an online photo library about my country due to many reasons (business was not part of it) around 1997. My camera used film back in the day and I got the Sony Mavica around that time (using diskettes! imagine that). I had some photography background and this project made me better at it very quickly. Suddenly I had a decent photo library.

You asked about online project, that's it, it wasn't a business, it was a project, a hobby thing and a cultural projection of my country on the web. Later I found a lot of people were asking me again and again the same questions about the pictures so I had to put some details and background. Around 1998 I was building my first website using Perl and HTML, having databases back then wasn't that easy or free, hosting wasn't cheap.

I tried a few photo gallery options available online, some are still around. I hated them all, they were slow as hell, and most of tall the final product consumed too much space. To my surprise I built my site quite fast and it was way better than the online galleries. It was a Desktop App with export functions, that was it. Later I learned to build a frontend and backend. My website was amazingly fast, later learned about sprites to make it faster.

Yes it was a project, not a business.

Around year 2000 my pictures were used on some nation wide stuff, ad campaigns, newspapers, etc. Why? I think, mostly because it was the first option where you could browse, see and choose pictures online without having to set up a meeting and check the photos on paper (of any kind). A lot of people need the stuff ASAP and I already had all my pictures in digital (and slowly making the transition to full digital camera), digital cameras were expensive at the time (at least to me).

It became a business, and that project allowed me to create related online websites on my own that still exist. That first online project became an online photo library where I used to sell pictures (not anymore). I reached 2,800 pictures and that was it. I continued working with photography but never as in the past (to sell the pictures online), the web changed a lot and it wasn't a good business anymore, specially with a lot of people giving their pictures away for free.

That's my story.
11:37 pm on Oct 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Csdude55, ha you made my day, your first online project reminds me a lot of things about mine. Perl, flat file databases, and specially trying to host the website at home. At the time it was expensive, and there wasn't so much traffic so it made sense to me, but quality ISP weren't common in my country, most connections used telephone lines, and it was expensive, so even as commercial hosting was also expensive it was better than hosting the site on my own. I learned so much and had so much fun.
11:07 am on Oct 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I had a long background in the tourist industry but I had kind of reached the end of the road where any further progress would lead to me leaving behind all the advantages that this career had given me. And I couldn't face doing the same work I was doing until retirement more than a couple of decades away, despite the fact that many people considered it a dream job.

My original career had been in journalism and I knew that the standard of layout and copywriting on tourist websites was generally poor - and for English-language versions in the country I was living in, it was downright disgraceful. I had a long think about the unique advantages that my skills and background gave me (something I would still forcefully recommend to anyone thinking of starting a new project), quit my job and taught myself html and css.

The first projects I did were seasonal versions of an independent tourist guide to the place I was living in as an example of what could be done (and what I could do) and as publicity for my services. For a long time, they outranked the official tourist office site and were what got me interested in the search engine side of things (as well as a journalistic background being very useful for search-engine-friendly content). They acted as a model for further more ambitious personal projects and as an inspiration for creating my own sites, rather than working on other people's. They are still online, although over the decades, the tourist industry has very slowly started to get its act together...
6:24 pm on Oct 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Ah, the good old days of yore when I was young(er).

My first online projects were the DB back ends for adult sites done in the evenings after getting home from 'real' work; programming and databases were hobbies.

On 'retiring' in 1997 I built my first website as online contact point for custom DB and GUI work. In chrome yellow (think school bus) with animated gif's and combo boxes for link lists; it was so garish/tacky, I was so proud of it, looking back it's mind boggling that it actually brought me work.

Over the next few years webdev replaced strictly DB work and eventually webdev for myself replaced client work.

I'm still inordinately proud of the massive 1999 design and build of a multidimensional DB and GUI, not at all common back then; that it is still in use today is, I consider, my greatest web accolade.

Discovering a new world. Still.
8:27 pm on Oct 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@stever, I had similar experiences to what you describe. My first online project being about photography crossed the line into "selling photographs" what's funny is the amount of incoming messages and request about tourism. I never offered such services. When people asked stories and background about the places I posted descriptions and this increased the incoming messages requesting travel services (I talked about this on another thread). Still, I refused stepping into the tourism industry. It was accidental and yes I also posted "I don't sell tours". The tourism industry is quite... ugly if you ask me.
11:59 pm on Oct 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I got the Sony Mavica around that time (using diskettes! imagine that)
Yeah, baby!

I was in Japan for business (January 1996, I think) , and a co-worker and I took the train into Sapporo after work to find a place where we could get one. I forgot how much it was at the time time, but I think it wasn't too bad with the exchange rate at the time. (Then we had to race back to the train station and just barely made the last train back to the hotel.) All I knew was that it was FAR easier to take pictures for the Web that way than use traditional film, pay/wait for it to be developed and get prints made, then scan the print.

The biggest pain was (while traveling) having to drag multiple boxes of floppies around, then having to transfer all of them to the computer each night so that I would have empty floppies to use the next day.
12:31 am on Oct 31, 2018 (gmt 0)

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BBS from 1984-1994, eventually built out to an eight line access and several thousand paid subscribers running under OS/2 (remember that?) hand coded software and. was the Fidonet hub feeding over 100 other local nodes in the area...

Internet looked pretty lame when I switched over. :)

My, how things have changed!
6:01 am on Oct 31, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Ive always had an interest in computing since about 1981, wrote my first game about a year later all at the age of 11, then wrote games through the 80's. By 1988 I was jaded and didnt want anything else to do with computers it wasnt till 1994 that I bought another one (Commodore Amiga 1200).

I seem to remember the internet being mention on the TV, BBC news I think, a mate of mine was attempting to put films down teh web for Masters degree at Cambridge, I told him the web was a toy and a fad, stop wasting your time!

Then in around 1997 I was buying PC for a company I owned - So I thought Ill have one of those, sales rep stated would I like a modem with mine so you can use the web..... Thought about it and well, yes ok.

Got it home at 7pm next thing I remember my eyes hurt, my back ached - It was 4am - Yep Im hooked.

Played around with the web but it wasnt till 2003 and found myself with nothing to do, set up a site with products that I liked wrote the cart- Purpose being I wanted to learn SEO.

One of my games was atop seller in the uSA but the supplies nationwide had run out, I was the only supplier - Took £1500 per day for several months - Adwords cost me 3c each.
9:51 am on Oct 31, 2018 (gmt 0)

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After a few experiments on free web space I made a biology website, it would've been roughly 1997-1998. I came across Brett Tabke at Burstnet (?) and Calum MacLeod (a former mod here) who happened to live in the same town and both pointed me over here.

I used a few library books ToC for my website architecture and started using ASP/Access for a backend. I used MS Frontpage to code it up. All the cool kids used Notepad and Dreamweaver.

Managed to get a decent link from harvard.edu that was PR8 and rank #1 for 'biology' and such. I sold a text link on the home page to some insurance co who ranked pretty well from it and it gave me some cash to keep churning on.

I think when I moved on it had around 10K pageviews a day. If I don't do much else useful online, I'm pretty sure the site was useful to someone and the time taken making it was outstripped by those reading it.
7:49 pm on Oct 31, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@iamlost: oh yes! the Sony Mavica was one of the first digital cameras, it was bulky and used diskettes, it was a pain as you explained, oh yes. But it helped to keep things going real quick. Not to mention the savings on film.
12:28 am on Nov 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I got my first digital camera, a Mavica, to take photos for my Ebay listing. That worked out pretty well for me in unloading a lot of collectibles I had in the basement. Took a couple of years, but paid off OK. Then it was on to my first real attempt a web site selling collectibles on my own. That didn't go well at all.

But I had the camera and another hobby so I put the two together and set up the website that eventually led me to finding WW. That was a pretty simple html site and easy to maintain. Took a couple hours a week to work on the site after a few hours of taking part in hobby related activities on the weekends. I've taken almost all of it offline now, but a tiny bit is still there.
 

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