CBn's 5th Anniversary: The History of CBn
Today marks CBn’s 5th Anniversary. It was 5 years ago today, that I registered the domain “commanderbond.net”.
This week, we have some great new features and additions to the site to help celebrate this. To start off with, there’s “The History of CBn”.
You can discuss our Anniversary in this thread.
The History of CBn
Is it really only 5 years ago that I approached my Mum in our garden and asked “Mum… can I borrow your credit card?” – words that were to echo in her ears many more times, during the next few years. At 15, I’d just discovered the wonders of the Internet, and could see how a web site could bring people together from all different corners of the globe, to enjoy and converse about their interests. My Mum, luckily for us, agreed and handed over the plastic. Greg Nolle, a good friend of mine (and who has been on the Team since the start), helped me register the domain ‘commanderbond.net’ on the 25th of July, 2000.
The first few months, it was really just a playground (that I spent many hours in) for me to get into the web design lark. Greg was a good few years ahead of me in his wealth of experience, already running his own web site dedicated to the Star Trek franchise, so he offered to help get CBn up and running. I’d also contacted Michael Deeg, a graphics designer in Germany, whose work I’d seen on other James Bond sites; fan art and logos mainly – he’d designed the logo for 007sdomain.com. I emailed Michael, basically begging him to make a logo for my new site. Nothing existed at this point, no design, or anything – so the fact that he agreed and came up with the most stunning logo I’d ever seen, was amazing! The logo is still one of my favourites that CBn has ever sported. I sent the logo off to Greg (the logo is still his favourite too!) and he included in the first ever design for the site. Not only had Greg designed the site, he’d also developed a web application that would help me maintain the site easily. For the next month or so, I was adding content to the site – really simple things like Film listings, and character profiles – nothing too fancy, but you have to start somewhere, right?
During that time, I was picking apart Greg’s design so that I could learn HTML for myself – and once I’d conquered how to use tables, that was the beginning of me making more ‘complex’ designs for the site. At this time, I was studying for my GCSEs, so didn’t really have a lot of time for content on the site and was more focused on the design, layout and HTML in general so that I could do more fanciful things to attract visitors. I came up with a new design in November. This was my first real attempt at a decent web site. Thomas Waldek, whose fan art I’d seen on ‘Bond 20 @ Blue Haze Movies‘ agreed to make a new logo for the site design. With this, I launched the new layout.
Seeing Thomas’ fan art really inspired me to learn how to make some of my own. This was the next thing on my hit-list. I acquired Paint Shop Pro and for a few months preferred it over Adobe Photoshop – probably beacuse it didn’t have such a steep learning curve. However, as I continued to use both together, I lent towards using Photoshop and soon was making my own fan art – Bond 20 teaser posters. Like I said earlier, I’d seen Thomas’ fan art on ‘Bond 20 @ Blue Haze Movies’ – a Bond 20 dedicated site, run by Daniel Dykes. I submitted my teaser poster (which featured Christian Slater as the bad guy…) and Dan accepted it and posted it on his site. I felt so proud and pleased. Dan and myself got talking – we talked about plans for extending CBn, and with Greg and my newly acquired web design skills, Dan came aboard the CBn team.
Greg wrote a new content management system for the site (the first version of Content Wizard), and in January of 2001 we launched the new site. If I remember correct, this was New Years day. We mainly concentrated on news – however, it was getting hotter in the Bond 20 news department – lots of rumours being thrown around (mainly from the British tabloids… no surprise) and all the time, we were getting more and more visitors to the site. CBn was running on a spare server in Greg’s loft and with the increased strain, both the server and Greg were finding it hard to keep it running. Greg also had to compete with all the CBn traffic coming down his telephone line. The site was getting slower and slower, to a point where it took a good minute or two for anything to load.
Greg and I started looking for alternatives. We found a web host which offered ‘Unlimited Bandwidth’ – which was exactly what we needed. This would be the first time that we’d be paying a monthly fee for our hosting, and my parents agreed to pay (thanks Mum and Dad!). It was only a day or so after we’d uploaded all of our files onto the new host (which took hours), that they cut our account off. Our ever growing forums was too much strain for them to cope with. They told us to switch to a different forum package, or not use a forum at all. This was our first forum transition, and we made the move to vBulletin and had to fork out the extra cash for a licence. Forum transitions are a big pain to do, as all the posts, threads and members have to be converted so that they work with the new forum system. Once it was all ready, they re-enabled our account and we were up and running again. Literarily a few hours later, they cut us off again! Now they complained that we was using too much bandwidth. Looks like their ‘Unlimited Bandwidth’ boast was rubbish.
This time there was no alternative for us but to move server, again. This time we couldn’t look for server shared by others, we needed our very own dedicated server. This wasn’t going to be cheap. It’d cost $100 a month. Expensive. I had no income as I was studying at College. I couldn’t expect my Mum and Dad to pay for this, and there was no one else to turn to. This was the first time I made a donation plea for CBn. With the aid of a little beauty called Paypal, it was easy for people to send money to help CBn. I had to set-up a dedicated bank account for the site as so many people sent in donations. And it was with these donations that we were able to afford the move to our own dedicated server at Rackshack (now known as EV1servers). However, the server fee drained our donations quickly, so I had to make a good few more donation pleas in a short span of time. Raymond Benson auctioned one of his short stories, with the money going towards helping CBn (thanks again Raymond!). If it wasn’t for all the donations that our readers were sending in, CBn wouldn’t still be online today. A big thank you to all those who have donated to CBn (acknowledgements at bottom of this page).
The day was the 9th of August, 2002 – a day that would change CBn, and the online community of James Bond forever. A few days prior, a forum member on the AJB007.co.uk forums posted large script segments from Die Another Day. These included major spoilers for the upcoming film. CBn as well as other Bond sites on the Internet, posted the script segments online. At first, no one knew whether to believe the excerpts or not, but on the 9th of August, everyone knew that the script segments were from the upcoming film.
I received an email early in the morning from an international law firm representing MGM, Eon and Danjaq. In this letter, they confirmed that our site was featuring script segments from their clients upcoming James Bond film, Die Another Day. Because we were infringing on their intellectual property, they demanded that we close the site immediately until all of their copyrighted was removed. This was devastating. How could a James Bond web site survive without any stills from the films? And why did MGM feel threatened by dedicated fan sites? Surely they were grateful for the free publicity they were getting to help sell their overly expensive DVD and VHS sets that were re-released every few months?
Bowing to their instructions, later that day, I took the site off-line.
This was a really stressful time for me and my parents – the threat of being sued and having to pay damages for the profits they would lose (yeah… whatever) was just… unbelievable. It was devastating.
Feelings and emotions ran high amongst the team and I just didn’t see a way forward. I’d lost all motivation for the site. How jealous we were feeling (and still are) of the Star Wars web site communities. LucasFilm doesn’t endorse the sites, however, they didn’t treat their fans like this.
The main problem with getting the site back up, is that our popular and recognised graphical headers featured mainly the stills from the films. Without these, the site would look extremely boring and amateurish compared to what it was.
Evan Willnow, our Photoshop god came to the rescue with some amazing new graphical headers. None of these featured any of MGM’s material and Evan had created a CBn/007 logo that we still use today. With these new graphics, all we had to do was remove the other images used in articles. This was quite an easy task of just deleting our image folder. It left articles with dead image placements, but at least we would be able to get the site back up quicker.
This is exactly what we did. The site went back up, and we carried on as if nothing had happened – we continued to report news on Die Another Day. To this day, I think this shows how fans of the series are so dedicated, that even when the companies behind the films try and sue you, shut you down, that CBn came back gloriously to continue being a fan site for Bond fans, by Bond fans.
Since that fateful day we’ve been very careful about the content we publish, but we’ve still managed to bring the news and updates of a high quality that fans have come to expect when visiting CBn for over the last 5 years and will continue to do so.
One of the greatest examples of this, was our ‘Licence Revoked‘ story – one of the first on the web to confirm that Pierce Brosnan would no longer play Bond. Many people doubted us, however, Pierce Brosnan then publically confirmed it himself.
Only last month did we take CBn to ‘the next level’ by launching the Internet’s first dedicated, James Bond podcast. We’ve had over 1,000 listeners for our first episode and will shortly be releasing the next.
I’d like to personally thank all of those who have been involved in the site, past and present team members:
- Charlie Axworthy
- Heiko Baumann
- Shea Bennett
- Jordan Charter
- Rory Couper
- John Cox
- Paul Dunphy
- Daniel Dykes
- Barbara Emanuele
- Luke Freeman
- Charles Helfenstein
- Brett McAleer
- Tim Roth
- Ross Sidor
- Athena Stamos
- Craig Stewart
- Jacques Stewart
- Matt Weston
- Evan Willnow
- Jason Woodhouse
- Chris Wright
- Devin Zydel
And all of those who have made donations:
- Charlie Axworthy
- Raymond Benson
- John Cox
- Philippe Danjean
- Barbara Emanuele
- Simon Firth
- Bob Foster
- Dan Howard
- Karen McEndoo
- Brett McAleer
- Chris Onsrud
- Martyn Pallett
- Barry Parmelee
- Anthony Phillipson
- Vernon Pellom
- Michael Pine
- John Pinkerman
- Rodney Richey
- Joseph Stachler
- Saam Tariverdi
- Travis Tune
- Evan Willnow
And not forgetting our readers (and recently, listeners!) and members of the forum.