How it started
I got involved in developing and hosting websites when I was pretty young. Surprisingly I’ve managed to save copies of almost everything I’ve ever written. The earliest sites actually run best still because they have the fewest dependencies.
My first website was a flash game website which never made it online, it was an HTML website which I distributed to some friends on re-writable CD-Rom discs. At the time my internet home was dial-up with a 56k modem and we only had one phone line. I could only get on for brief periods.
I started this project learning how to save copies of web pages, but the problem with a saved website is that links don’t work without internet. And I wanted the links to work, I wanted to simulate the being online. So I created my own website and embedded all of the content I wanted.
In order to do this I’d save a bunch of web pages and then I’d take them apart and put them back together to create a website! It worked out alright!
Some of the files from this website are dated 2002, so I think I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I got into Flash development for a while after this and built a few other sites that also never went online.
And then we got broadband
I got broadband sometime around highschool and quickly got into online gaming. I built a fan website which turned out be my first domain registration on Mar 21, 2008. knowhalo.com.
This site went through many-many iterations, and miraculously I can’t find any decent screenshots. If I find some I’ll post them. At some point or another it ran Joomla, Drupal, phpBB, and probably a half dozen other content management systems.
To build that website I needed website hosting and being jobless I went with a free webhost named 110mb.com. The 110mb website is long gone but the service gave extremely basic free hosting with 110mb of storage for free. It was also a Post2Host service which meant that if you were an active member of the community forum they would give you additional “free” upgrades.
In a couple of years I outgrew this free sandbox and paid for a virtual private server (VPS).
My own (virtual) server!
With a VPS I had more processing power then I needed so I started sharing resources with other forum members who also needed more resources then the free hosting service provided. A few of them even started paying me so I bought a new domain, welfarehost.com on June 20, 2009 and started a free and paid web service.
I still think Welfare Host is a kinda clever name, it was a web host that gave free hosting to anyone who needed it and as it turns out a lot of folks needed it. At one point there were around 1000 websites hosted on it for free and all of that hosting managed to be supported by a few dozen that upgraded to paid accounts.
it was a web host that gave free hosting to anyone who needed it
My goal had been to create a service with enough users that I could have a few websites hosted for free. And I succeeded in that goal, I didn’t pay for hosting for years. I actually exceeded that goal and was paid for hosting that I also used.
This project kept expanding and at some point someone pointed out that they didn’t like the sound of being on and paying for welfare so I changed names and bought chemicalservers.com on Jan 30, 2010.
This site or one of many variations stayed live for several years. I worked on it in the evenings after school and at night when I probably have been sleeping. At it’s height it has a few thousand users and quite a few paying ones.
All told, by selling hosting in highschool I probably made a couple thousand dollars. But I wasn’t keeping spreadsheets yet at that age so it’s impossible to say.
Working for a Web Host
After I graduated High School in 2011 I moved and started at [Old Dominion University[(https://odu.edu/). I also got a part time job at InMotionHosting as a support rep. When I started there I closed down ChemicalServers as a paid service and converted it be a free user only service so that I wouldn’t have any conflicts of interest with my new employer.
Working at InMotion was a perfect job for me at the time. I already knew all of the ins and outs of linux web servers so it was a breeze. I wound up being their youngest hire and stayed for about 3 years.
I already knew all of the ins and outs of linux web servers so it was a breeze
I never would have gotten this job without prior experience and that experience came from working on ChemicalServers. With that experience I was able to push the limits of the job and was often a top performer. I was independent at 18, paying for school without taking on debt. Such a stellar gig.
Fast Forward to 2020
It’s been 11 since I bought welfarehost.com and found my first users and although I let that domain expire long ago the project persisted as chemicalservers.com. Until this year. Because of the pandemic I’ve had time to revisit old projects and tidy them up and in this case it’s time to close the chapter.
Last month I contacted the last dozen users that were still hosting sites and helped them migrate to other services. With that done, and no more users relying on me I’m planning to let the domain (chemicalservers.com) expire on January 30, 2021.
These projects and the experiences from them over the last decade have taught me more then any education or job and I can’t imagine my life today without it. To all the friends, family, coworkers, users, and customers who were some part of this along the way. Thank you.