It's been a long time since we have talked. It's a typical story: I met a girl, fell in love, got married. Somewhere in the chaos the Pumpkins ride came to an end.
So, it's been five years since starla.org went online. I can hardly believe it!
To tell the story of starla.org, I need to start with the Smashing Pumpkins Audio Archive. Some of you will remember a little site called the Smashing Pumpkins Sound Page (SPSP). A fellow in the Netherlands who went by the name Coke95 started it in early 1996. The most remarkable thing about the site was the use of the MPEG Layer 3 Audio compression format. The site featured roughly 25 full-length audio files, mostly live and rare recordings. Such a thing was unheard of in early 1996!
The SPSP went down almost immediately upon the news of Jonathan Melvoin's death. I picked up the pieces and the Smashing Pumpkins Audio Archive (SPAA) was born! I worked for a backbone ISP at the time and had ready access to bandwidth and storage space. It was a fortunate convergence of circumtances and new technologies (both MP3 as well as bandwidth, storage, and the explosion of the Internet in general).
The first order of business for the SPAA was growth, so I opened the archive up to submissions and updated religiously. The Archive grew to over 100 files by the end of 1996. Sure, chump change today, but it was a landmark in its time. More importantly, a community of submitters built on generosity and friendship quickly developed.
Of course, circumstances changed frequently. The SPAA site was always hosted at spaa.simplenet.com, but the files frequently changed locations, circling the globe and making frequent stops in the Netherlands. The movement was mostly dictated by server and bandwidth limitatations, as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) hadn't caught on just yet. With the help of many generous individuals, we managed to keep the SPAA online most of the time.
Inadvertantly, the SPAA became the poster child of the MP3 revolution. I was interviewed by Rolling Stone, SPIN, and many others. I have piles of press clippings from around the world. I was invited to speak at industry conferences. I was even asked to be a partner in the most famous MP3 site still still running today, but turned the opportunity down.
For many reasons, the SPAA came to an end amidst the boom. By that time, every popular band had an "Audio Archive." Even so, no site for any other band ever came close to its size (over 1000 files at its peak) and focus on quality and accessibility.
The SPAA was a lot of work and a lot of fun. However, the fun did not end when the archive went offline. The legacy of the SPAA was starla.org.
The attention the SPAA received put me in a good position to host and promote other Pumpkins sites that I liked. Mostly, sites that my friends had created or were creating. One thing they all had in common was a dedication to content, quality, and design. Simply put, they were the best of the best, and I hosted them at spaa.simplenet.com. Over time, the intro to the SPAA become a directory of the best sites the net had to offer for Pumpkins fans, created by the likes of Milan de Jong, Simon Coyle, Mark Andrew Hamilton, Onica Balsh, Dave Silverman, Henry Bent, and others.
Around the end of 1996, hosting companies emerged to make domain names attainable to the common man. Simon Coyle and I conspired to give our collective of sites a real identity. We began to send design ideas back and forth for the first half of 1997. The site was originally going to be pumpkins.org, but became starla.org after a naming contest. On July 22, 1997, starla.org went online, a directory to our collective of sites. It was the first Pumpkins site I can remember that had a domain name of its own. It soon was receiving over 1000 hits per day and was a daily "must visit" for many Pumpkins fans.
Starla.org was never about world domination, and we soon realized that there were other excellent sites we should be promoting as well. In October 1997, a new design went online that was truer to my vision. From one page, you could see the latest news headlines, tour dates, and link directly to the best (and only the best) Pumpkins sites for almost any type of content. I thought it was the perfect start page for any fan. Many people agreed and the page took 5000 hits per day at its peak.
Only a handful of sites listed on the original starla.org page are still online today. Yet, other top-notch sites have arisen to take their place. The Pumpkins finally came around and made a site of their own! Through it all, starla.org remains the place to go to find the best in the online Pumpkins universe.
When life took me away, Milan picked up the torch. He redesigned and even added an international flair, but stayed true to the sites mission. Thanks Milan!
Friendship. With due respect for the Pumpkins, friendship was what it was really all about. I met some great and talented people and made some very dear friends along the way. I grew up with them, and saw others grow up as well. The community had plenty of techie types, but also doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists and musicians of all sorts. I am thankful to have known them all and to have met a great deal of them in the flesh.
I doubt that it is over for starla.org. I know my hard drive is remains full of memories and artifacts that have not seen the light of day...yet.
Here's to another great five years!
Have a Gish day!