The history of k9directory
Why write this article?. Well there are couple of reasons for me wanting to document the history of k9directory but the main motivation was to get everything written down before my memory started to fade. I also wanted to create something for my children to read when they are older, hopefully giving them some insight into what I did for a living.
Who should read this?. Anyone thinking about developing a niche directory or a highly targeted web site. I learnt a lot running k9directory during the 13 years it was live. By reading this article you can avoid making the same mistakes I made. Even with the mistakes, I was proud of the fact that k9directory grew from humble beginnings and managed to generate over half a million pounds in revenue every year for the British tourist industry.
I had the initial idea of creating a web site which listed hotels & cottages which allowed pets to stay during the winter of 1999. In that summer I had gotten a Border Collie puppy and wanted to go away on holiday, but didn't fancy the idea of putting the dog into kennels while I went away. I started looking around the Internet for hotels and cottages which allowed pets to stay but didn't find any convenient central directory.
Why was this?. Well back in 1999 most hotel and cottages owners didn't even have email addresses never mind a web site. I decided to start compiling and curating a list of independent hotels, and hence started my 13 year journey as a web publisher.
Initially I started by covering one County and picked the popular holiday destination of Cumbria. The lake district with it's stunning walking makes a perfect get away for owners with dogs, and a family holiday with kids and a dog is ideal. Unfortunately, not many hotels at this time where so forward thinking as to allow dogs to stay with their owners. The initial version of the site was simply a single web page listing the properties that I had managed to find. Each property then had its own page which gave more details and a single photograph of the property.
At the time I was employed as a full time computer programmer for the local government, and realised that if this experiment took off I would soon need a database to hold all the property listings.
So in my spare time I started writing the first of what would turn out to be three databases, to hold all the property listings. This was back in the DOS days and the first copy of the database was written in a DOS database called DataEase. I was pretty proficient in using DataEase, so after just one nights programming I had the initial database designed and ready to go. The database published all the HTML web pages at the push of a button.
The system I had developed was in fact a static site generator, long before the likes of Jekyll, Octopress, nanoc and the like became fashionable. It was to be model I stayed with, even when PHP and MySQL became popular for serving database driven web sites in real-time. Being an old school programmer, I wanted the majority of the site to be plain static HTML files so that it would load very fast and be trivial to move to a different hosting provider should the need arise.
As it turned out this was a good decision to make as the site changed hosting providers several times during its lifespan.
So, I had the initial site for built of Cumbria, yet needed somewhere to host the files.
In 1990, most people in the UK didn't have broadband myself included. I just had a free dial up account with Freeserve which came with 5mb of hosting space. So I published the Cumbrian listings to a site like _myname.freeserve.net_. This was probably my first mistake, I should have registered a proper domain name from the start, I discuss domain registration in more detail later.
Surprising the site got picked up by one of the big search engines of the time Altavista, remember this is pre Google, and started to receive traffic and ultimately I started getting e-mail feedback from users saying that the resource was really helpful and useful, but people wanted full UK coverage not just Cumbria.
The document has 1,200 words and was last updated on 1st of May 2015. The body is typeset using the Noto Serif web font. The web site is hosted on a Digital Ocean VPS.