July 9th, 2004

End of an Era for PostOne


p1logo.gifI probably should blog about this earlier but forgotten until this reminded me: PostOne.com is shutting down.

PostOne.com started as a project (Pobox, which is why I have pobox.org.sg) I did for fun back in 1994. The idea comes from a discussion I have with Markus Ranum (of Firewall-1 fame). There was this cool thing called Mosaic and we were discussing what we can do with this new stuff called World-Wide-Web. Markus suggested ‘Why not merge WWW with Email?’1. So 3 days of no-sleep hacking2 later, PObox was borned.

PObox started as as Email forwarding service with the tagline ‘Email for Life’3. But it is because of a more selfish reason: Back then, the university issues us with a new account (and thus email address) every freaking year. Later, I added ability to read email and also netnews directly from PObox.I launch the service quietly, with a little post to soc.culture.singapore. Then someone in Japan found my little service and almost overnight, the user base grow 3x with 2/3 of them from Japan. That’s when I venture in Internationalization, translating PObox to dozen of languages with helps from my users like Japanese, Chinese, French, Portugues, etc, handling different interface for different users.

It was fun and I get to talk to many interesting people from different part of the world. I also get to know Meng Wong (of SPF Fame) who was back in Singapore for vacation and found out that he launched his pobox.com a month before me! :P A few months later, hotmail.com also join in the game.

Then one day, the service suddenly stopped. Apparently, my one little Intel 486 FreeBSD box generates so much traffic that it hogged up the whole University bandwidth. The folks from Computer Center threaten to shut us4 down but luckily my mentor (Dr Tan Tin Wee) managed to convience them to resume the service with the promise we will find a solution within a month.

So I went back to my friends at AsiaOne.com (part of Singapore Press Holding) and literally give PObox away to them. They agreed to take over PObox which they rebranded PostOne.com but unfortunately they didn’t pay much attention (or the business manager in charge don’t really understand what to do with it) and it suffer a long slow death…

With the launch of Gmail with its 1Gb diskspace, and hotmail.com and Yahoo! offering 100mb diskspace, suddenly Email is getting hot again. But with PostOne.com still in 94/95 technology (yes, little improvement for the 10 years :P If you want a history study of how we do perl programming without CGI.pm, look at PostOne), it is probably a smart business decision to take down PostOne.com. *sigh*

Still, PostOne has many fans. My wife was particularly upset having to give up her email of many years. Others decided to do something about it and started post1.org in response. For me, I am thinking if it is worth it to go to them to buy out the domain name from them.

1 Markus probably dont remember this discussion we have in a small corner in National University of Singapore more then 10 years ago but in case he does, I confess I dont remember his exact words either :-)

2 Those were the days where 72hrs of non-stop coding is okay so long followed by 36hrs of sleep…sigh…

3 I still use my original email from PObox email from 10 years jseng@pobox.org.sg today but alas, it’s time for me to switch …

4 24 months later, hotmail.com sold to Microsoft for a cool 500M. Would things turns out differently if they haven’t force us to move out? Hmm…I don’t know.

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