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20 years of Cactusoft

Thursday, February 8, 2018

20 years of Cactusoft
In February 2018 Cactusoft celebrated 20 years in business. We take a look back to the web of 20 years ago and how we got from there, to here.

Cactusoft's story starts before the end of the last millennium. The date on our UK certificate of incorporation reads 8 February 1998. In reality we'd started creating our business already - we'd been busy working on a logo and website, and our .com domain name was registered on 12 January 1998. The screen shot below shows our website from near the end of our first year.

Cactusoft website in 1998

Though crude by today's standards, the site made use of some pretty cutting edge things for its time

  • the cogs in the top left actually turned - using animated gif images
  • the online demo section used javascript to highlight selected buttons and show a preview on the blank grey panel next to them
  • our site featured demonstrations of web pages in chinese and arabic, support for these was limited on the internet at the time

The business world was a very different place in early 1998. Most people didn't have internet access, but those that did accessed with relatively small screens and very slow internet connections for which they were probably billed by the minute. If someone needed to find a business service they didn't go to Google - it would only be launched towards the end of 1998. Back in those days the Yellow Pages wasn't just a large book that was used to prop up a broken table leg, it was the way some of our earliest customers found us.

For those that did have internet access, AltaVista was the search engine of choice. It was there that we focused our earliest efforts at SEO (search engine optimization), a discipline that had only been invented a year earlier. Altavista had been created by Digital Equipment Corporation and launched in 1995. At the time, they didn't think it would be a problem that someone else had already registered "altavista.com", instead running the site at a subdomain of the Digital site "altavista.digital.com". Years later they purchased the domain name for over $3million.

The development of the World Wide Web had accelerated with the release of the Netscape Navigator web browser. In 1996 it had achieved 86% market share. By 1998 Microsoft had released the 4th version of its Internet Explorer browser, and was rapidly taking market share from Netscape. It would reach 99% market share by the turn of the millennium. Netscape was purchased in 1998 by AOL, and eventually formed the basis of the Firefox web browser.

Netscape screenshot

The late 90s was an exciting time. New Internet companies sprang up and some achieved incredible (some might say ridiculous) valuations either on the stock market, or as they were bought by larger companies. The predicted chaos of the Y2K bug failed to materialize and the market soared into the new millennium. It was only a matter of time before reality dawned and the valuations came crashing down.

Some proclaimed the dotcom crash of 2000 as the end of the Internet. In fact, many of the giants of the Internet today were founded in the few years after the crash.

  • Wikipedia 2001
  • Facebook 2004
  • Reddit 2005
  • Youtube 2005
  • Twitter 2006

Today the market seems much more stable and predictable. Of the 10 websites with the largest traffic, YouTube is the newest at 13 years old. The Internet is a major part of almost everyone's lives - people use it for work, for play, and many even meet their spouses on it.

Its difficult to imagine what the Internet might look like when Cactusoft has its 40th birthday in 2038. Bitcoin might be the global currency of choice, or it might have vanished. Our Amazon deliveries might be coming by drone, or perhaps teliported to us. Or we may face a digital apocalypse as the Year 2038 Problem strikes, and return to living like savages as we did before the Internet.

Life before the Internet

 

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