Project Management

Builder.com is dead, long live Builder.com


This is going to be one of those rambling, meaningless blog posts that clutter the blogosphere. It's stuff that nobody but the writer really cares about. I hate doing it, but it's something near and dear to my heart, so I'm going to write it even if nobody is going to read it. It's a requiem and a memoir for the passing of a Web site that I helped launch a decade ago: Builder.com.

We launched the site publicly I believe in 1998, or was it late 1997? I can't remember ... it was during the frenzied years when it seemed the Internet would keep growing exponentially forever.

I do remember it was envisioned from the start as one piece in a multi-platform business. The Web site being one platform, and a Web conference business being the other, with vague and grand notions of adding more types of platforms in the future once we figured them out.

The plan was that the platforms would feed each other -- articles and reader feedback on the Web site would drive planning and sessions for the conference; then, people attending the conference could use the Web site to learn more about the sessions they attended and keep in touch with the new friends and colleagues they had met. It was Web community before that term exploded into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.

Unfortunately, we were never really able to tap into the then-new notion of the Web as a community platform. Part of that I suspect was the target audience of Web developers. It's a very diverse group with interests all over the map that no one Web site could hope to satisfy, yet the charter for our little site was to try and cover all aspects of the Web development space.

Builder.com could never really find one thing to do well -- the articles we would publish were all over the map just like our target audience. One week you'd have something on Oracle databases and the next on stupid JavaScript tricks. We were trying to offer content for everybody from the enterprise software developer to the guy working on his personal Web site.

We know now from the recent success of laser-focused tech blogs that the way to success in a niche is to own the niche. Builder.com was aiming for too big a niche and couldn't possibly own that space the way a site focused on just one aspect, say JavaScript, can.

Another part of Builder.com's woes I believe was that in many ways we were going up against the very advertisers we needed to support the site. I mean, if you're Adobe why sponsor content on a third-party Web site like Builder.com when you can just as easily post the same content in your own Web property? The Web makes everybody a part-time publisher, which makes them all competitors to the full-time publishers like Builder.com.

That's not to say that some advertisers didn't find clever ways to leverage Builder.com. For example, for quite a while one of the biggest advertisers in the Java newsletter was Microsoft. Smart counter-programming, reaching an audience of Java Web developers with advertisements for Microsoft software that both complimented (SQL Server) and competed with (Visual Studio) the very Java software covered in the newsletter. Say what you will about their technological prowess, but you can't argue with Microsoft's marketing savvy.

The first Builder.com conferences, held shortly after the Web site launched, were called Web.Builder. The URL for the conference program was cleverly web.builder.com. Those conferences were really fun. How can you go wrong when you have your conferences in cities like New Orleans and San Francisco? But then the Internet bubble burst, which of course hurt the conference business badly. There were no more Web startups with millions to throw at any and all types of marketing including our conference.

So the conference business was struggling to find sponsors, and the Web site was struggling to find and grow an audience. Interest in all things Internet was waning as the bubble burst. Eventually the conference business was shuttered, and Builder.com was sucked back into the main CNET.com site.

The site was then later spun out to the fine people who run this site, TechRepublic.com. They made a go of it, trying to find ways to turn it into a profitable concern. But the fundamental weakness remained of trying to be too many things to too many people and serving none of the audiences well. So it was probably inevitable that we couldn't make it work even with this second chance under the TechRepublic umbrella. I shoulder part if not much of the blame, as I was essentially running the site for over a year at TechRepublic.

So it is with deep regret that I bid a fond farewell to my old friend, Builder.com, the site I helped bring into this world. Perhaps I'm looking at the past through rose-colored lenses -- I know at the time it was quite a struggle trying (and ultimately failing) to make it work. But what I remember most was how much fun it was to be part of launching and nurturing Builder.com. Those are the memories I will cherish, even if it wasn't quite the lasting work we all had hoped for.

The only way now to find any remnant from the old Builder.com is to query the Internet Archive and maybe Google's cache, at least for a little while longer until it gets updated.

The URL has been redirected to Builder.com Australia, which is a fine Web site that was born from some of the same ideas that we used in launching the U.S. site so many years ago. Thankfully, they seem to be doing much better at executing those ideas than we were here in the United States.

Best of luck to our friends Down Under as they take over the URL. May it be as much fun for them as it was for me.

15 comments
deepsand
deepsand

Were it not for Builder.com, and the fact that several of the newsletters were reincarnated at TR, it's quite possible that I may never have learned of TR's existence. As, like all things, that's been a mixed bag, for that I am torn between cursing you and thanking you. May the Future Be Kind.

dan
dan

Hey, Rex. It was good to read your reminiscence about Builder.com. I have fond memories of those years jammed into one corner or another of the CNET sprawl near Fisherman's Wharf in what will always be for me The City. Unsurprisingly, I have a slightly different take on what caused Builder.com to fail in the conference space. But that's water under the bridge so I'm not going to take up that issue here. I just really wanted to say hello and to tell you that I'm still building Web sites for most of my living! Best wishes.

nazikhuq
nazikhuq

I kind of like builder.com very much because of the varied topics it carried. Thanks for your effort which was not in vain since many like myself used it to enhance our careers. Thanks again. - Nazik

BOUND4DOOM
BOUND4DOOM

I miss builder.com. It was a fine site for developers. I actually really loved that it was all over the map it let me know what other languages and technologies were doing. The one thing I loved the most about it was that the articles were more real world articles. Not pretty mamby pamby articles showing you everthing in a perfect world but they were real stuff you could use. I had been a member of builder.com since early 1998 so it has been with me for quite a few years. I am sad to see it go.

anerinethegreat
anerinethegreat

as web administrator and as a baldazo too...that's such a blog post.

sbfpsj
sbfpsj

hi,Rex Baldazo,I'm lining , Executive editor of Builder.com.cn.so ,what should I do ....SOS....My MSN:leesbfpsj@hotmail.com : gtalk: sbfpsj@gmail.com

Devans00
Devans00

I've been a Builder.com user since it's creation. The only reason I'm a TechRepublic customer is because they took over Builder.com. The biggest benefit of Builder.com to me was the references and tools. TechRepublic has done a great job in evolving a lot of the references and expanding the scope. Hopefully I can find replacements for the Color Code Converter and Stupid Web Tricks, two old Builder.com links I still have in my bookmarks.

RexWorld
RexWorld

Just curious, were any of you attendees at the Web.Builder conferences in the late 1990's? If so what did you think? What did we do right, what did we do wrong?

RexWorld
RexWorld

Hey Dan, great to hear from you. I know, there's many points of view about what happened to the conference. But I'll always have fond memories of them, and your big booming voice rising above it all. You really were the ideal front-man for that conference, at least IMHO :-)

debuggist
debuggist

The link for this is at . At the moment, it has a Javascript error in IE7 and FF2 on Windows, but Safari works. We'll fix it ASAP. Best, Doug

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Those tools and in fact everything that was once on Builder, is now found on TechRepublic. The color converter is located here: http://techrepublic.com.com/html/tr/color-converter.html (Note: this link is correct, but we are having a JavaScript problem - will be fixed soon. Works in Safari oddly enough) We don't have a central page built for Stupid Web Tricks, but a search will bring it to you. http://search.techrepublic.com.com/index.php?t=11&s=0&o=0&q=stupid+web+tricks On a personal note, I too was once a Builder.com editor. I worked with Rex that last year trying to get Builder some deeper traction. After Rex left and I moved over to TechRepublic full-time, I continued to slip content to Builder on the sly. I just couldn't bear to see it die.

RexWorld
RexWorld

Those Stupid Web Tricks were some of the most successful content on the site. In the last few months that I was running the site, it was really that backlog of content that generated the majority of the page views traffic. Not the new stuff we were posting, but the old reliable how-to stuff. Some but not all the Stupid Web Tricks did get moved over to TR. They are here: http://search.techrepublic.com.com/search/Stupid+Web+Tricks.html

yuvalr
yuvalr

And still have the teeshirts! I attended the SF and New Orleans. These were fantastic times.

apitpit
apitpit

The conferences were very educational and some of the best fun I have had in my professional career. Made a lot of friends and partied furiously at Tipitinas and many other bars in the French Quarter. Fondest memory was the last year of the confernces when my friends and I walked up the missippi at midnight without getting hurt :) Then getting on the flight back home with some many conference attendees realizing that we collectively helped changed the way the world communicates today. Be proud of what you started!!! Many remember the conference fondly.

RexWorld
RexWorld

Ah, thanks for posting those links Mark. Glad to see they did save off all the old content.

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