Grandson was here yesterday.
“Grandad, Mam told me you once made a famous website?”
This puzzled me for a bit as I have made dozens of websites. Could he be referring to this one, and if so, why the past tense?
Then I remembered! He meant my very first site when I knew sweet damn all about websites and the whole Interwebs was in its infancy and not even out of the virtual maternity hospital.
At the time one of my jobs was to install software on the PCs in RTE so that people could access this new wondrous invention. First I would install the IP stack and then install Netscape Navigator Gold. One of the very first questions that would be thrown at me was did I have a list of good websites they could use.
I pondered upon this question when I had an idea. At the time, Netscape used a file called bookmarks.html. This contained all the sites a user had bookmarked. It crossed my mind that I could edit this file and add a list of common sites such as HotBot, Dogpile and the Irish Times [Google hadn’t been invented yet]. So when I did my installations I included my edited file which instantly gave them most of what they wanted. As I did my rounds I also got suggestions for other sites to add to my little file.
It was a bit of a pain having to install this file and it crossed my mind that it would be easier if I could put the file somewhere on RTE’s internal Intranet site and people could then just link to it. I approached the boss with the suggestion. He told me to fuck off, that no one was allowed stick their personal stuff on the Intranet. Typical RTE!
A friend in Engineering had a little sideline where he had gotten himself a web server. He heard my dilemma and suggested I put my file on his server, that all I needed was a name for the embryonic website. Irish Lynx was born!
I did a bit of home tutorials on the wonders of web sites and how to write them and soon had an actual website with an Index and pages of categorised links. I even managed to add some images to make it more professional looking. I had created my first site!
Over the months, the site grew into quite a large repository of several thousand links. As the site was public, people outside RTE started using it too. It became very popular. The mainstream media began to take notice.
Irish Lynx is a portal site of, well, Irish links (the more obvious domain name of www.irishlinks.com was already taken by a site that has nothing to do with Irish interests). It was initially set up two years ago with the idea that if you have, or know of, a good site, share it. This is one of the basic philosophies of the Internet, and it’s good to see this ideal being so well honoured here. Up-to-date, accurate, a great resource with graphics and colour kept to a minimum, it’s easy to use.The Irish Times Oct 3rd 2000
The site became very difficult to edit as every entry had to be put into several files. What I needed was a programme to do it for me. I knew nothing about databases so I decided to use an Excel spreadsheet to contain the information. I then created a Visual Basic Macro to run it. I would add the new links to the spreadsheet and then press “Compile”. The macro would then delete the old files and create new ones from scratch. It was cumbersome but it worked. At this point the site contained tens of thousands of links.
I was approached by management. They wanted the site. They didn’t say why. I told them to bugger off.
They said the site was theirs as it had been written on company time and I that had to hand it over.
I told them to bugger off and that the site had been written on my own time at home.
They said they owned the “Intellectual Property Rights” to anything and everything produced by a staff member regardless of when or where it was created. This sounded very suspicious as they could claim ownership of everything I had ever written since I started working there [including shopping lists?]. I didn’t quite believe them.
I told them to bugger off.
Eventually they backed down and offered to buy the site. A price was agreed and paid.
They killed the site.
To this day, I don’t understand why they did what they did. The site just vanished. No notice or apologies to the public who were using the site. They let the domain lapse and it has since been owned by various people linking to sites that have fuck all to do with Ireland or indeed the Lynx.
The site wouldn’t stand a chance now. Google and their ilk have seen the end of portals and made them redundant.
It’s funny, but up until yesterday I had forgotten all about Irish Lynx.