AustralianPolitics.com is 18 years old. I can’t place the birthday precisely, except that it was somewhere during the mid-year school holidays in 1995. July 1 seems a suitably mid-point date to mark the occasion.
My first ever web page was a set of teaching notes on the Watergate scandal. They formed the basis of what is now a separate website, Watergate.info.
Within weeks of the page appearing, I began receiving emails from American students, teachers, librarians and others seeking information and asking questions. Many just wanted to debate Watergate. They were nicer times online than now.
Sometime during those holidays, I also posted Australian politics material. I think another set of teaching notes on the Whitlam Dismissal might have been the first Australian content. Thereafter the site began to take shape around the structure of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Politics course.
The website was hosted on my NetSpace internet account. Its very clunky URL was http://netspace.net.au/~malcolm.
One of my first memories of experiencing the power of the internet was the March 1996 federal election. Online newspapers were just starting around then and not much content appeared online. I started posting a daily election update, a very simple account of what was being reported in the news, supplemented by occasional audio items and election literature. Traffic began appearing almost immediately.
One night during the campaign, a work commitment kept me from posting an update. An Australian living in Sweden emailed me to say he was relying on me for news about the election. Others also contacted me and I began to realise there was an audience out there. It was small but growing. It continues to grow to this day. The internet revolution is still in its early stages.
On March 16, 1998, having run out of disk space at NetSpace, I purchased my first domain name VCEpolitics.com, opened an account with SimpleNet and moved the site there.
NetSpace has recently been taken over by iiNet, whilst Simplenet was taken over by Yahoo back in the late ’90s. Around that time I began the perennial search for webhosts. The long march through shared hosting, a dedicated server, back to shared hosting and finally to its current home on a Virtual Private Server at the very excellent KnownHost is a journey many website owners understand.
Back in the 1990s, I couldn’t obtain the domain name AustralianPolitics.com. It was owned by someone in the United States, most likely a domain squatter. I was able to purchase it on November 16, 2001. The parochialism of VCEPolitics.com was finally removed and in its seventh year the site became AustralianPolitics.com.
A few months later, on April 17, 2002, I purchased the domain name WhitlamDismissal.com and moved all the Whitlam material to its own site.
AustralianPolitics.com has continued to grow. As I’ve explained here before, it works best for me because I feel no obligation to do anything. I promise nothing to anybody. Material is added if and when I feel able or motivated. The site is what it is, just a whole lot of stuff. Yes, it has a structure that I’m careful to maintain and develop, but I would never pretend that it is anything more than an idiosyncratic archive of content.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with different approaches to the site. About ten years ago, I offered a subscribers only area to teachers and schools. There was reasonable interest but it didn’t work for me. It seemed too much like giving myself homework every week.
I added Google Adsense to the site in January 2004. Adsense had only just started in 2003. It was an immediate success and I’ve only ever missed a payment from them in one month over the last decade. The income from Adsense provides an incentive to maintain the site but it’s not really the reason I’ve kept it going.
As I indicated in April, the site now faces closure, collateral damage from the chaos I have encountered.
In the meantime, AustralianPolitics.com remains alive and has reached voting age. I’m just a little bit chuffed.