10 years on the Web: Saying Goodbye to the site that started everything

This is a bittersweet day for me.

After 10 years of working on the net, website like this I’m saying goodbye to the site that got me started in this whole world of Web site production. The site that, thumb truly, has led me to where I am today.

The intro image from the 1998 version of the site.

Carteret.com, the first domain name I ever owned, and the site that taught me just about everything I know about the internet today, is now for sale.

Why? Because I’ve learned as much as I can from it now, and because, according to the offers I’ve already received for the name, it’s apparently worth more money to others than it is to me these days.

The Web that was

So how’d this all begin?

In 1996, I ran a design studio — what amounted to little more than a brokerage firm for print shops, really — in Carteret County, N.C., and we wanted a good way to interact with potential customers. The domain (as we ran it) never worked for that (the internet was too young and stupid to be of much use for e-business in 1996), but it taught me lessons and gave me skills that have certainly changed my world over the past 10 years.

The cost of a Web site

The initial setup cost for Carteret.com was $400 for shared server space on a 100 MHz server. The domain registration itself was another $100 to Network Solutions, and the monthly rental fee at the time was $100. So in its first year, excluding the labor costs and advertising fees, the site had cost me $1,700 out of the gate. And in 1996, Carteret.com really didn’t do anything. (In contrast, Turdhead.com, which is updated far more frequently, costs me about $100 a year to run these days. Ah, the economies of scale!)

But for my money, I got bragging rights. With content produced on a 75-Mhz 80486 PC, Carteret.com was the first Web site on the block to focus on my local community, Carteret County, N.C. The original “logo:”

The intro image from the original version of the site.

The idea was to sell “homepages” to local hotels, restaurants and other companies, but for some reason, I never got around to the sales part of it. A few customers would come to me, and I’d get them online and host their own sites, but I never actually used Carteret.com as a portal in itself.

However, with Carteret.com, I cut my teeth on HTML, first designing for Netscape Navigator 0.9 Beta, and later groaning as pages fell apart under Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0. Soon after, the 3.0 generation of browsers came, and suddenly the Web was beginning to change — relatively stable page layouts (remember “I hate tables?”) became possible, and the Web was quickly littered with tiny badges declaring “This site best viewed in IE3/NN3,” simply because it was true: What happened in Netscape, stayed in Netscape.

The next step was to generate traffic. This involved getting a link on the local ISP’s homepage (www.coastalnet.com) and registering your site on the Big 10 search engines (you know, Lycos, InfoSeek, DogPile, Yahoo!, Excite, etc.). There was no Google.

One thing was sure: The site had balls. It had to, if it wanted to be cool:

Adding the sizzle

Everybody needed a gimmick to entice visitors to their own Web site, of course, and in 1996, everybody’s gimmick was a Web-based chat room. (I considered adding online classifieds and/or auctions to the site, but another community site focused on the Bay area in California was already doing that. You could visit it at http://www.ebay.com/auctions, and they seemed to have some nice old computer parts for sale. Doh!)

After shopping around through dozens of CGI-based scripts written in Perl, C, sh, etc., I finally decided that none of them would work for Carteret.com, and so suddenly I was learning this new technology called Perl 4. Combining the awesome power of CGI (the Common Gateway Interface) with an animated GIF created what was then “a true multimedia experience,” complete with spinning globe:

Or on special occasions…

Ooooh, yeah!

Flash in the pan

But it wasn’t all flash and sparkle. In fact, there was no such animal as Flash when Carteret.com went live. In my day (cue grumpy old man), we had to use “FutureSplash” for our web-based, vector animation. And there was damned little of it. FutureSplash, for those who don’t know, was the forerunner of Flash, developed by FutureWave Software and later acquired by Macromedia (whom, until then, I only knew from seeing the “Made with Macromedia” logo on a few of those snazzy new games that required an entire CD-rom to run!).

But I used it, and I fussed with it. Never did much with it (to be fair, there wasn’t much one COULD do with it), and it took me a few years to finally get over it and admit I enjoyed using Flash (To be precise, it took Flash 4 and its new-fangled “ActionScript” in 2000).

Growing up on the Web

By 1998, the Web was changing rapidly. With the introduction of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS1) and better standards for Javascript and DOM control, complex layouts and client-side applications had become possible. Carteret.com got its third and final makeover in the fall of 1998, leaving behind the spinning globes and spherical orbs, and embracing the world of CSS, dynamic PHP3 pages, inline banner advertising and advanced traffic monitoring. Suddenly, it was a business, and suddenly, it wasn’t as much fun anymore.

Growing old on the Web

By 2002, the skills I’d honed developing Carteret.com had led me to work for IBM, Cisco and a couple of the venture-capital-hungry dot-coms that one would always trip across during the glory days before the bubble burst. In 2000, I had even started my own Web-publishing business for community newspapers, and Carteret.com slowly sank from my radar screen.

It was now run as secondary host on another Web site’s server, so its monthly costs had shrunken to just about nil. I’d occasionally visit and be surprised that the old chat rooms were still active, but for the most part, I just waited for the checks from the affiliate programs to which the site belonged.

In 2003, the server on which it was hosted crashed due to a faulty power supply, and I just never got around to putting it back online.

Farewell, old friend

Today, I spend my days programming Flash and creating e-Learning programs for a major international company, and my nights updating Turdhead.com for the same reasons I used to update Carteret.com — because I can, and because it’s fun. I’ve also picked up auto restoration as a hobby (out of the blue, I know), so I just don’t feel the need to run another Web site.

When I started Carteret.com, I didn’t have any of the following skills. Today, they’re like old friends. Thus, I hope the next owner gets as much out of Carteret.com as I have. Its gifts to me so far have included:

  • Many friends met during the early years of the site’s chat rooms
  • Apache administration
  • FreeBSD and Linux administration
  • HTML/DHTML skills
  • CGI programming (Perl and C)
  • Javascript
  • Flash (including ActionScript and FSCommands)
  • CSS 1 & 2
  • PHP 3 & 4
  • Online advertising and visitor tracking knowledge
  • e-Commerce techniques, and now…
  • Domain name reselling
  • Web security, SSL and firewall expertise (damned script kiddies)

2 thoughts on “10 years on the Web: Saying Goodbye to the site that started everything”

  1. Congrats on the sale! It still seems odd that you won’t be running it anymore, but I don’t know why.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *