by Brent Eades
Well, more or less.
I created the first version of what is now the Almonte.com site back in 1995, a time when few people had home Internet.
I started building websites the year before, 1994. Back then the Web was a niche interest, and no one knew if it would amount to anything. Computer nerds (like myself), scientists, and academics were the main users. By the end of that year there were about 3,000 websites in the entire world. Now there are 1.75 billion.
The version of the site I built in 1995 didn’t have the Almonte.com domain name – its address, if I recall, was something like http://mars.on.ca/~almonte. Addresses like that were normal back then.
It had a brief description of our town and a few small photos, about all that any website for a community had back then. Sadly, no copy of it exists any longer; the files disappeared in a hard drive crash years ago.
In 1997 I decided to take things further – I would register the Almonte.com domain name and make a more sophisticated version of the site.
Almonte was still a separate municipality at the time and I thought I’d give it first crack at registering the Almonte.com name for its own use. The Web was starting to catch on by then but was still far from widespread – the town thanked me and said basically, “No, we’re good, carry on.”
So I did. The technology for building websites had progressed at lot in three years. Here’s how the 1997 version looked:
Note the ‘photo gallery’ link at upper right – this contained photos I took with a digital camera – a new thing then – that I borrowed from the guys who ran the old Grafix Express store in town. Was it Bill and Chris? I’m not sure by now, apologies, guys, if I got that wrong.
By 2000 more things were possible with websites, so I redesigned Almonte.com again. Here’s how it looked then, and for quite some years after:
The ‘send a postcard’ stuff was fashionable back then – “You can do that online? Cool.” So was the ‘guestbook’ feature, where people could post comments directly to the site and see replies from others – an early kind of Facebook, I suppose.
By 2013 Almonte.com was badly overdue for a redesign. Here was that version, looking a little more contemporary:
In 2016 I updated the site again, going with a cleaner, simpler design more in keeping with evolving trends on the web.
Then last year over the Christmas holidays I decided to do yet another revamp, changing the design again and updating and expanding the listings of businesses and artists. That’s the site you see today, and I expect I’ll leave it as is for the time being.
One of the most popular parts of the site – going back over 20 years now – has been the ‘historic photo archive’.
Now numbering over 700, these photos of Almonte and the area start in the mid 19th century and were collected over years by Michael Dunn. They make up a visual history that few towns our size can boast, and I find them endlessly fascinating.
Almonte.com has always been meant as a guide for visitors to the town, rather than an exhaustive directory of everything in Mississippi Mills (which didn’t exist when I launched the site, come to think of it.) On average about 35,000 people visit it each year.
As for what’s next: I have no idea. At some point I’ll want to shake things up again, but for now I’m good with the site as it is. Stay tuned 🙂