nine more years

nine years ago to this day, on october 7th, 1999, www.whatthefuck.com opened its doors to the public. for weeks upon weeks, outzider and abdul sat in the basement of a house in new brighton, mn, creating the first iteration of a web site that really had no design direction and no goal. their only inspiration for the site came from years of running dial-up bulletin board systems (BBS) in the 612 area code, and wanted to re-create the same experience. message bases with free-flowing comments, featured op-ed pieces, multi-user chat, and maybe a few ways to make some money.

in a way, the site pioneered concepts that have made other people quite a bit of money. our message forums allowed free-flowing thought rather than the broken thread based systems that were popular at the time. our featured columns section was the precursor to featured blogging, made popular by sites such as something awful. free e-mail became the required service du jour for the major internet companies, and caused many storms when providers disappeared into the sunset. many of the sites that were popular at the time are now seeing huge declines in traffic, such as the aforementioned something awful, or kuro5hin. for those sites, the message boards and comment systems are what see most of the traffic. go figure.

for us, we were merely a blip on the radar for most of these services. looking back, there were many places we could have made a huge impact with the userbase we had, but we were 18 and 19 years old when the site started, and we had a lot of living and learning to do. only a couple of years in, and the original admins had a falling out. on top of it all, we were slow to grab trends, and were too busy with jobs and life to devote the time required to the site. the technologies of the time limited our reach and ability to do the things we required, and in many cases, we lacked the requisite knowledge to do what we wanted. financial concerns prevented many upgrades, as well as incompetence on the part of hosting providers over the years. our days started on a shared hosting account at some no-name company, moving to a server based on a pentium mmx at 233 mhz for years. today, we have four servers running our operations, which is largely overkill, but provides the foundation for new things to come.

years went by with bug fixes, feature removal, admins coming and going, re-freshening of the design a few times, and the site's citizens dwindled to a skeleton crew. a year ago, oz had to make the decision to either try it again or let it go, after years of trying to re-create the codebase and failing. ultimately, he chose to redo it in a modern codebase, and the "new" whatthefuck.com was released last november. small bug fixes and changes have come fairly steadily over the months, and we finally have the servers, storage space, and support framework to start offering e-mail again after five years without it. yesterday, mail was opened up to a few beta testers to start working out the kinks of the system, and in the next couple of weeks, will be opened up to other users. once we have a decent idea of how well it is working, we're going to send somewhere around 120,000 emails to users who haven't been on in a long time, asking if they'd like to come back.

the web is a far different place than it was in 1999. when we opened the site, i was working for an internet provider that dealt primarily with dialup customers. linux was just starting to gain traction as an alternative operating system, and beos was actually relevant. internet video was handled by realplayer with a touch of quicktime. google was still a minor player, trying to be as great as yahoo and altavista. aol was posting record profits. a new site could get a lot of users just by hitting a search engine, or being noticed by netscape or america online. nowadays, there are a lot of sites trying to get your attention, and the average poster on the web is not likely to use complete sentences or real words. we've always been a different place than what the internet generally offered. we hope to continue the same.

here's to nine more years of this bullshit. hopefully, you'll come along for the ride.

outzider, the lead administrator of whatthefuck.com, only writes when he's bored or pissed off. he contributes to site announcement, board bullshit, and is also attempting to be a political columnist. you may send comments, questions, or suggestions to him at outzider@whatthefuck.com.
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