Today, I found a really interesting web site called The Internet Archive WaybackMachine. If you go there, you can enter a site name and find archives of various web sites.
This can, of course, be rather amusing. Fortunately, not ever version of my web site was archived, as I didn’t get a domain name until I’d already been on the web for two years. I don’t think I even want to remember some of my old site designs. My first one was so incredibly horrible, and even by today’s fast access standards, it would take forever to load. I don’t know what many of us were thinking back then!
In other cases, it can be almost like a walk through a child’s development. I took the opportunity to look back through the various versions of the Epinions web site. Wow! Talk about change!
The first version of Epinions that was recorded was October 12, 1999. Looking at this rather explains the “We are the writers! We rule!” mentality of many of the older members. Everything about the site screamed that the contributors, who just happened to have unbiased opinions, were the most important aspect of the site.
For grins, I went back and viewed the profile page of one of my favorite Epinions writers Grouch. Back then, he had a rather smarmy looking profile picture (sorry David!) in comparison to the ultra-serious one that he has now. And even then, when the members were so few that the site actually had an alphabetic index of them, he had a (well-deserved) hoard of trusters. But the hits were very few. The average hits per review was fewer than 20.
The thing that was impressive about that snapshot of Epinions was that it showed a site that was growing. There were incentives to write, invitations for new writers, categories being added, etc. Overall, it was a site that gave an impression that it was going somewhere, even if it didn’t necessarily seem to know the ultimate destination itself.
A leap through the later snapshots of the site shows very clearly the gradual yet certain path away from the importance of the writers. Products and product categories carried a higher importance. As I went through the various versions, I couldn’t help but notice that the incentives were shrinking. I also noticed that the design became such that it was easier and easier to hide the fact that new products weren’t being added to the product database.
Was that intentional? Or just a by-product of a growing site?
There are more things to wonder about though.
Many of the writers have been constantly in arms about intellectual property rights. While surfing through the various archives, I found that some of the reviews were archived as well. If the writers thought that Epinions removing the edit/delete button was a big deal, how do they feel about this?