Collaboration

Counting down to TechRepublic's 10th Anniversary

You can't measure the lifespan of most Web sites in Dog Years. They usually don't last that long. On the other hand, TechRepublic just passed its 9th Birthday earlier this month and is closing in on its 10th Anniversary. Here's a brief recap of how TR got started and what we'll do as the big 1-0 gets closer.

You probably didn't realize it, but TechRepublic recently celebrated its 9th Birthday. The TechRepublic Web site launched in the first week of April 1999, back in the days of the DotCom boom when such Internet Giants as Pets.com roamed the planet.

If you check out any user's profile on TechRepublic, you'll see the date they first became a TechRepublic member. For example, my profile says that I've been TechRepublic member since April 1999 - specifically April 16, 1999. Another TechRepublic editor here, Jody Gilbert, has been a TechRepublic member since April 8, 1999. There are a few profiles on here which have an earlier date, but not many. And almost all of them are current or former employees. The only reason I didn't get an earlier Join date was because I was on vacation. Darn.

Even though the TechRepublic Web site is only 9 years old, it began as an entity that formed over 10 years ago. TechRepublic started life as NarrowCast Concepts, which was created by former Cobb Group co-founder Tom Cottingham. The Cobb Group was a publisher of paper-based technical journals that were tightly focused on individual products or technologies such as NetWare and Windows NT.

After Ziff-Davis purchased The Cobb Group, Tom hung around a few years and then decided to leave. A few former Cobb Group executives went with him and they founded NarrowCast Concepts. Tom was initially under a no-compete agreement with Ziff-Davis, but that no-compete expired about the same time that ZD decided to shutter The Cobb Group (by now renamed ZDJournals) and move it to Rochester NY. Tom took the opportunity to scoop up as many Cobb Group editors as he could and refocused NarrowCast as a ZDJournals competitor focusing on paper-based technical journals once again.

By now the Internet was taking off, and the best way to get venture capital funding was to be involved in the New Economy of the Internet rather than the Old Economy of publishing content on paper. With that, Tom refocused NarrowCast on the Internet, changed the name to TechRepublic and off we went. Eventually, TechRepublic was acquired by CNET Networks, which ironically had purchased ZDNet from Ziff-Davis a few years before. (Thus reuniting my 401k plan.)

Over the course of the next 12 months, we'll be building up to celebrate TechRepublic's 10 Anniversary on the Web. In an environment where Web sites have the lifespans of mayflies, 10 years will be a significant accomplishment that we won't let go by unheralded.

This was only the Reader's Digest version of the Reader's Digest version of TR's history. There will be more to say as the days count down. We'll talk to some of the people involved in the early days of TR, hear what members have had to say about it, and relive some of the great and not-so-great moments in TR History.

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