Decades ago (back in the late 90’s) I was looking for a domain name to use for a portfolio website. Of course, even in the late 90s, many of the “good” names were already registered. I ended up going with BigBlueBall.com, as it reminded me of the descriptions of planet Earth as seen from outer space.
In 2001, I repurposed the domain as a public news and discussion forum around the topic of instant messaging. At one point, we had over 40,000 form members discussing AIM, ICQ, Trillian, MSN Messenger and so many more. The website was getting over 500,000 pageviews a month in 2006.
As Facebook and smartphones took off, interest in instant messaging waned. One by one, most of the old instant messaging applications eventually shut down.
And my personal interests shifted more toward being unplugged and outdoors.
In 2010 two things happened that essentially “killed” BigBlueBall.
First, the site was hacked, not just once, but multiple times throughout the year. Specifically, the discussion forums were hacked to redirect to other websites. The first hack was on February 18, 2010. I would undo the hack, repair the website, and it would get hacked again and again. This went on for about a year until finally in early 2011, we migrated to a new system that ended the attacks.
Second, I launched SoCalHiker.net. I was training to thru-hike the 211-mile John Muir Trail (JMT), and redirected my extracurricular energies into sharing my hike guides, JMT planning resources and gear reviews. It fit better with my personal focus and was a whole lot more fun than battling hackers.
The changes I made to BigBlueBall in 2011 resolved the problems we dealt with throughout 2010, but the web traffic never recovered. Interest in messaging had shifted. My interests had shifted. And the organic traffic we had from Google never quite recovered.
Fast forward to 2020
I occasionally get unsolicited offers to buy BigBlueball via email. Most of the time I ignore them, but when I had one pop-up in my inbox last month, it made me think. Maybe I could reinvigorate the website and breath a bit of life back into it.
And so I’m embarking on yet another side project: revitalizing BigBlueBall.com. I’m going to invest four hours per week to see what I can do to turn those pageview statistics around and breathe new life into an old website.
Let’s call it a BigBlueBall Revival.