4 days ago, I completely forgot about my 10 year anniversary.

It was the 10 year anniversary of my first domain name, and the creation of FreeCenter.com. You can take a 10-year-old-gander at my first domain here.


Thinking back, it was actually a pretty monumental thing for me. Back then, I was just out of high school, working for a the Joliet Park District and/or Babbages, making — I think — $6 an hour.

A domain name cost $100 to register. My feeling was I wouldn’t spend $100 to register the name until I had earned that through my website (previously it was located on a subdomain of a free hosting company, Hypermart).

Once I hit the $100 threshold — it took a few months — I gave that money to Network Solutions and grabbed up FreeCenter.com. Shortly thereafter I purchased SiteGadgets.com and Amusive.com, bastions for remotely hosted content and a nice portal to link to my endevors (respectively). By that point I had earned out those domains, as well.

Purchasing the domains, especially the first, had some feeling of success. My websites, specifically FreeCenter, started as a sandbox to learn Perl from. And if I could make a hundred bucks off this internet in a few months, I bet putting my mind to it, I could make a bit more.

In unrelated life news I had decided to drop out of college and pursue a full-time job at the NHMA as, basically, an IT monkey. I still tinkered, of course, and as the now-realized bubble built up I got wrapped up in it. I quit my full time job because I finally hit a month where I earned more from my website than I did at my full time job (scales were slightly different. I made more that month from my website than my yearly salary at said full-time job). It helped that I also loathed it.

Now that I no longer had to sit in a cube for 8 hours a day reading the archives of Calvin and Hobbes (this was the start of my obsession with webcomics, by the way), I started taking my new “job” a little more seriously.

One thing I did was move from shared hosting to a dedicated server. Here’s my first ever dedicated server specs, purchased on 5/13/1999.

CeleronA 300 Mhz, 128 MB of RAM, 6 GB EIDE hard drive, 50 GB data transfer, 16 IPs, RedHat 6.0, and sadly no tape drive (it speaks well that there is even a blank for that on this contract).

The setup fee was $245 and I paid $295 per month for that.

February, 2001 I upgraded my server — for a setup fee of $175 and a monthly fee of $430 I was bumped up to a P3 800 Mhz, 256 MB RAM, 18.1 GB SCSI HD. Still no tape drive. I bumped up again on September 21, 2001. There was an additional 128 MB of ram and my processor was bumped up to 933 Mhz. My monthly fee went down to $375 (prices dropped dramatically between those two dates, as you can tell).

But a lot of stuff happened in between my first and second servers. More or less my entire contribution to the .COM bubble fell between those dates.

Here’s a random smattering:

  • In February, 2000 the now-defunct LifeMinders offered to acquire FreeCenter.com.
  • In April, 2000 About.com approached me about acquiring my Internet dominion. Talks were short; I hated About.com and still do.
  • Somewhere around here I got an offer for my company from eFront, who basically attempted to defraud the entire internet. Yeah, I saw through that.
  • Finally, I got probably the most serious offer from iBoost. Actually, this needs its own paragraph so I’m breaking out of this bulleted list.

iBoost was a “content agregator” — they attempted to buy a bunch of sites in an attempt to build up a huge advertisment base they could sell at a premium (similar to eFront, but much less fraudulent). Of course this all seemed well and good in 1999… but wait, I don’t want to spoil the story for you.

The CEO flew out to Chicago and we met at the Chicago Chop House (I figured it’d not look that great to meet in my mom’s basement). After that we talked numbers and was invited to fly out to LA to take a look at their operation.

Who passes on a free trip to California? Not me.

I flew out there, toured their office (they actually had a fairly large office), and saw a bit of LA. I remember going to see “Boiler Room” in a theater there with a few of the staff, including Chris Ueland, who was one of the founders of ml.org (if you were on the internet before 1999, you knew ml.org). I also was also introduced to the dulcet tones of Less Than Jake for the first time; one of their CDs is an album I insist upon listening on the first spring time day each year; all the windows rolled down (and now that I have one, the sunroof open).

I decided not to sell. In retrospect this is probably one of the most intelligent and fiscally correct decisions I’ve made in my entire life. Shortly after they folded, I suppose they just couldn’t deal without me. Or maybe it was the entire Internet crumbling in value. Probably one of those two, at least.

It would appear they scrapped the whole content thing and founded a fairly large hosting company in its wake.

Through the rough times after the bubble burst, I managed to keep my company profitable. I switched server providers and settled upon paying about half what I was. I returned to JJC, followed up with a degree from UIUC. You probably all know the rest, blah blah blah Microsoft, blah Google, blah blah.

There’s obviously still a lot about my life that’s defined by my entrepreneurialship, even if it is much less than I’d like. My business ticks on, and when I have time I try to work towards building the ideas I have, or improving what I’ve already created.

Negatives exist too — it’s hard for me to really vacation; if my server crashes, if someone’s spamming, or if a customer needs help, those are my responsibilities. It somewhat sucks to have to check your email every day when you’re in Hawaii. Or, you know, anywhere. But especially Hawaii. And, of course, it’s kind of a pain to basically have two jobs.

Even still, despite the fact that I’ve often thought of saying screw it and quitting my job, I’ve never thought of chucking off my company and being a normal employee like most people. And I suppose that’s why I have it, in the first place.