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the teen domain scene was my precursor to today’s net

I was thinking yesterday about typical. Most people don’t know that Meranda Writes is not my first foray into Web site ownership. Hardly. I actually bought my first domain when I was 14. Yeah, 14. It’s still around at typical.net. But I haven’t redesigned it or really updated much since freshman year of college. It looks way off on Macs, but the quote splash pages look pretty great on PC’s using IE. (This was before Firefox existed as a serious contender on either.)

I have, every year, paid to renew the domain out of a sense of obligation. See, typical.net has history. It’s a big part of my adolescence. I’ve tried to think of what I can do with it. My main objective, honestly, is to avoid it being snapped up by a domain reseller who will turn it into a page of links. In the meantime, it sits there, a relic of my past.

But that’s not why I was thinking about typical. I was thinking about how lucky I am to have grown up using the Web as my playground.

There was a time before MySpace and Facebook were the go-to places for young people. There was a time before Flickr hosted your photos and your bookmarks were anyone’s business but your own. Back in the days when AngelFire, Tripod and Geocities hosted the Web. There was a time when Yahoo was how you searched, and nobody’d ever heard of Google. Hotmail was a fledgling idea, and AOL was the cool ISP to have. And back then, everyone had ICQ, and you could still get a meaningful AIM username. There was a time before Blogger, Xanga and LiveJournal gave everyone license to be a writer. Believe it or not, there was even a time when Amazon only sold books and when eBay was just a place to look for rare beanie babies.

I know this because I watched each of those technologies develop in the past decade of my lifetime. And that my friends is why new media excites me.

I don’t care about SoundSlides. I don’t care about the benefits of QuickTime versus Windows Media Player and how Flash is really what you should use anyway. I don’t care about message boards or story chats. I don’t care about blogs or wikis. Sure, all of these things are fun to play with and make for some compelling packages and discussions… today. But what excites me is knowing that next month or next year something I never even saw coming is going to become commonplace.

Typical is an example of this. It is who I was, and it was a necessary step in becoming who I am today. It taught me about the importance of community, about keeping content fresh and writing for an audience. It let me hone my photoshop skills and gave me an outlet for my photography and creative writing to be seen. But I was one of many doing that.

There was this almost underground “teen domain scene,” we even had a homebase. You’ll notice the last time the “Today’s Domain Online” site was updated was June 2003. That’s about right, because that’s when I graduated from high school and kind of stepped away from the “scene.” There were hundreds, who knows when you count the hostees probably thousands, of us. We hailed from Tokyo and London from San Diego to Alaska to NYC to Akron. It was in many ways an elite club. You had to prove yourself to get noticed, to get hosted. You had to participate and put yourself out there for critique. But that interaction made it fun.

We didn’t just use these communities like kids today use MySpace. We CREATED them.

Today’s teens wallow on MySpace, but we had message boards on domains with names like “snuggles.net” and “bluemorning.nu.” When I first bought typical, I put up a message board. One of those UBB’s, which seemed ubiquitous among the higher profile “teen domains” of my era. I even grew a community of probably 50 very active users. We even had a mascot, Fred, who graced the top of my very orange message board. We talked about school and relationships. We talked about parents, about careers and college. Last year, one of the girls who had frequented the message board contacted me at my kent.edu e-mail address. She was enrolling at my university and wanted me to show her around campus. It was an interesting meeting, and it reminded me of the real world implications of the connections we make online. I learned how to moderate and generate discussion on those boards. I also learned how to collaborate and create a community on the domain.

Those are skills that, at 14 or 15, I just thought meant making it more fun. But then yesterday, when I was thinking about some of the awesome things available today and their predecessors, I realized it has all been just one big precursor to today’s Internet. I guess that’s the theory behind calling it Web 2.0. It excites me to think how quickly we’ve gotten here today. I can’t wait to see what the next generation holds and what new tools it will bring for communicating in, collaborating on and most importantly creating our world.

21 Responses to “the teen domain scene was my precursor to today’s net”

  1. Melissa Says:

    Can’t forget Fred ;)

    But it’s true, it’s so easy now…everyone has their piece of the web, and much of it is just a waste of space…how many drunken pictures can someone stick on myspace, how many quizzes can one post on their livejournal. Okay not that my first attempts had great content…remember those little bubble adoptions? But I did make them in PSP….it seems like the only time people make things now is for humor…youtube videos, macroing up random pictures…it seemed more creative/personal then. Which sounds really strange coming from a 24 year old…24 year olds are too young to be saying “well, back in my days on the internet…”

    I remember when I was 16 or so and told people I had a website they were impressed, now who doesn’t have…something

  2. Amber Says:

    I came across this post on a late night google search for ‘teen domain’ and it gave me chills… This was me. Circa when you circa’d, pumping out html like english in notepad, manipulating layouts in photoshop, way2kewl.com’in my way around the newest domains trying to find a host once my currents died. It wasn’t a hobby, it was a lifestyle…

  3. Tyree Says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has fond, fuzzy memories of the ‘teen domain scene’. It seems really surreal now, to look back on it… I suppose LJ and Blogger and MySpace were sort of the death of DIY interweb fun. But man… it was good while it lasted. I suppose I’m off to see if anyone is still around, or if it’s all really dead…

  4. Lindsay Says:

    As with those who found this randomly via google before me, I’m looking in a mirror. I still have the domain I registered when I was 14, though I’m thinking about turning it into a portfolio for freelancing, because that’s what we washed up teen designers do, right? I’m facebook friends with a few of my former hostees, one of whom ended up going to school for graphic design and gives me the credit for his addiction. I’m so glad I was a part of the movement; I think without us the Web would not have evolved the same way.

  5. Sasha Says:

    Oh my goodness- I used to own snuggles.net! That is so wild. i just googled it today to see what had happened to it and came across this- it IS so crazy that we were doing so much of this stuff 10 years ago! I wish I could catch up with more of the people who used to be in that little circle.

  6. Marisa Says:

    I remember and miss those days. :(

  7. Alma Says:

    i had websites, too. i don’t even remember the names anymore!
    I had my domain and would host several people…

    i miss those days :)

  8. Jen Says:

    Another random google searcher here, who was around in the teen domain days. I often wonder what happened to everyone. I’ve only sporadically kept in touch with one person.

    I laugh every time I open up Firefox, instead of IE. The term “Nutscrape” comes to mind. :)

  9. Laura Says:

    Oh wow, and here’s yet another random google searcher. I wish those days could come back once more…
    I was one of the few (as I felt) European Teen Domainers, and I never found another Dutch girl with the same memories. Strange, how the whole scene just vanished! I bought simplistic.org at 15, had hostees, spent hours creating stylish graphics in PSP, making my daddy proud when he saw me typing HTML in Notepad. I even made it into a magazine as ‘one of the first girls with her own domain’.

    We should set up a retro UBB :)

  10. jennifer Says:

    yep, another one.

    well written meranda! i too had one of those domains although not as popular but that’s probably because i was already 21 (although it was listed on way2kewl). this gave me memories of when i’d slave away in notepad creating new layouts on weekends. haha remember when domains had several people’s pages on it? those were so fun to look at. her post is kind of old already, but i remember the snuggles.net. had totally forgot about that one.

    thanks for writing this.

  11. Jen Says:

    For those of you wishing to re-connect with others from the teen domain scene – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=122613911090

  12. amber Says:

    Yeah I remember back then, too. I was about 14 at the same time all this started going on and it seemed very cool back then! I started on gurlpages.com (remember back then?) and then it became cool to own your own domain, come up with a wicked design, put up some content, get lots of links to your website, put up silly still pictures of yourself from a webcam, host people on your domain, etc. I remember way2kewl before it became TDO, also. I loved those times and it was a nice escape away from school and home life. Sometimes I wish it was still that way :)

  13. Jen Says:

    Found this through Google, too.

    Those were the days. I’m still in touch with two of my old ‘teen doman’ pals – We’ve all grown up to work on the web in one way or another. Will today’s MySpace junkies be tomorrow’s graphic designers? For their sake, I hope so.

  14. Jen Says:

    FYI – A little more googling found me this:


    Looks like a dump of way2kewl’s teen domania list.

  15. Laura Says:

    Oh Jen that’s so cool, and my old domain is on the list!
    But your facebook link doesn’t seem to work, what is the name of the group?

  16. P. Says:

    Another random google searcher :) I was looking to see if the TDO site was still up because a friend of mine posted some Nike’s and said they were 90s web design colours (orange and gray), and I was thinking damn if that site is still up it’s _so_ 90s! I was also of the Teen domain era – it’s great to see comments from people like Sasha on here! Still living and breathing web :)

  17. Kristine Says:

    Wow. This is just totally random. I was part of that era as well. I spent most of the late 90s as a hostee at Allusive.net before getting my own domain after that (invention13.net). I kinda wondered what happened to everyone so after a bit of Googling, I found this page. Thanks so much for writing this post–you wrote it exactly how I remembered it. It’s kinda neat to see what happened to everyone :)

  18. Amber Says:

    Wow, this really IS so random, and yet … ? Not really! I was 1/3 owner of cakedemons.com in the late 90s and HEAVILY involved in this scene in high school. I went on to live with Shae of plastique.org for a while after high school and a move to the bay area. What a trip!

  19. Kelly Says:

    I can confess to late-night googling today’s domain online and finding this. How great. I was the owner of evergleam.org during the teen domain scene. I often think back and laugh to myself about the days of UBBs and hostees, and that we truly did create this sense of community on the internet. Although many of my “real life” friends made fun of me for what I would like to refer to as my days as a web designer, I think that we were learning, engaging, and networking with each other– developing invaluable skills that can translate into today’s highly competitive job market. Sometimes I wonder what may have happened to my hostees and friends as well as former hosts. It’s crazy to read that list of past domains and remembering the names behind some of those domains, sadly I must have abandoned evergleam before that list. It was wonderful to read this post, Meranda. Thanks for providing a bit of nostalgia.

  20. Jen Says:

    I remember you, Kelly! :)

    I’m doing some research and hoping to put together a blog about my experience with the teen domain scene. And I just registered http://teendomainscene.com. Maybe we can use it to find and keep up with others that were involved in the scene back then.

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