Internet Throwbacks – Commenting systems and blogging platforms

21st June 2017

When I first started writing a blog, I didn’t actually realise I was writing a blog. I was an avid user of Piczo at the time, and I mainly used my site to showcase my “graphic design” skills.

But then one day I added a text box to the home page of my Piczo site, typed out the date, and then proceeded to write about what I had got up to that particular day. In fact I probably wrote about going to see The Dark Knight at the cinema because, let’s face it, that’s all I did in the summer of 2008. This was my very first blog post, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

This is how I became a blogger. I don’t know what was running through my head when I decided to added that text box to my site and proceed to write about my life, but I did it, and the rest is history.

I continued to add “blog posts” to my “blog” (i.e. editing my text box, adding a new entry above the previous one) for the next few months, and soon after I discovered something called Haloscan; a nifty little feature that would allow people to comment on my “blog posts”.

Haloscan was one of the few commenting systems at the time that would work on Piczo websites. It was simple, but it did the job and it made me feel like I was taking my “blog” to the next level. Users would click on a link within your post, and this would open a pop up window with a comments form in. If I remember correctly, you could customise it with a header, so mine probably featured a picture of Heath Ledger!

I was genuinely surprised when people actually used this commenting feature to leave me messages about my writing, but I loved it. I got such a buzz from reading the comments, and it motivated me to write even more.

When Piczo started going down the drain, and my coding skills began to improve (or at least I thought they were), I moved to a sub-domain called Summer Dream. I should probably point out that having a sub-domain was common at this time, especially for teenagers who couldn’t buy their own domain (I didn’t have a bank card…or money for that matter!).

I continued using Haloscan for a while, but then Haloscan became Echo and it just wasn’t the same. If my memory serves me right, Echo was more like Disqus is today. I think you had to login to comment, and it wasn’t very customisable in terms of appearance.

I decided to install a different commenting system called CuteNews, which seemed to be more advanced than Haloscan. But it was a massive learning curve for me.

Unlike Haloscan where you just added the comment link code to the end of your text, with CuteNews you actually wrote your blog posts through an interface, which was like a very basic version of WordPress or Blogger. This was all very new to me, but this is when I started to feel like I was actually “blogging”.

I don’t remember staying with CuteNews for too long. Everyone else in the community seemed to be using FanUpdate, so I decided to ditch CuteNews and “upgrade”. I have fond memories of using FanUpdate, and I always remember preferring it to CuteNews. But there was always one commenting system that I wanted to master – WordPress. That is, WordPress.org not WordPress.com

I have vague memories of trying to install WordPress on my sub-domain and it going completely wrong. I thought CuteNews and FanUpdate were difficult to use, but WordPress was something else. I’d managed to build website through piecing together bits of code, but WordPress was so much more complicated, and I needed an understanding of PHP to get WordPress to work for me.

That’s where Georgie came in. I started following Georgie’s blog back when I had my sub-domain, and I always remember her making the swap from FanUpdate to WordPress. I guess this was the main reason that I wanted to switch too. Fortunately, Georgie, as well as a few other bloggers I knew at the time, wrote and share a load of tutorials on WordPress on their sites. It was these tutorials that gave me the confidence to try out WordPress again after my initial failure.

So when I was accepted to adopt a domain, Imperfect Angel, I decided to install WordPress from the get go. After all, it was a blank canvas; if I screwed up then I had nothing to lose.

And to my completely surprise, I got it working. And then, I managed to build my very WordPress theme.

Looking back, I did incredibly well to build a WordPress theme with such a lack of coding knowledge. Sure, it wasn’t responsive or mobile friendly, and I never checked cross browser compatibility or checked it on computers other than my own, but it looked alright and it worked. That was the main thing.

Well, most of the time it worked. I mean, I had to update it manually because the automatic updates kept breaking my website, which was incredibly stressful each time, but it worked!

Since making the move to WordPress, I’ve never looked back. I was never tempted to go back to FanUpdate or CuteNews. I have to admit, I did try out Blogger (or BlogSpot as it was known back in the day) but it was just to basic for me. I wanted to code, and I felt limited to what I could do with Blogger.

Nowadays, WordPress is my main interest as a web developer, even though I don’t get to work with it as a part of my job. I’ve come to understand that it’s so much more than just somewhere to write and publish blog posts. It’s such an incredibly powerful platform with a fantastic community associated with it.

I’ve mastered the art of building WordPress themes, and now I’m learning about developing with the Theme Customization API, as well as writing plugins and widgets. I absolutely love it!

I think it’s fascinating to look back to see where it all started for me in terms of both blogging and web development, and just how far I’ve come since then.

I know that so many of you, my readers, will remember Haloscan, CuteNews and FanUpdate, and will all have your own stories of how you got to where you are today. So feel free to leave your stories in the comments because I’d be fascinated to know which commenting systems and blogging platforms you used!

Internet Throwbacks is a mini series in which I reminisce about stupid and embarrassing things I did online throughout my teenage years.

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  1. Amy

    I remember blogging using text boxes on Piczo! When I first started I just wrote a sentence or two, probably about what bad celebrity graphics I’d added to the site that day. It was so bad!

    I don’t remember Haloscan, but I remember Cutenews. There were always so many errors for me, probably because I was using it wrong. I loved it though and definitely felt more confident when people commented. It’s so strange looking back to that!

    I had to install WordPress updates manually as well. I always saw tutorials about backing up your stuff because the updates were so risky. Really glad they got that sorted out! I’m too lazy for all that now!

    Loved this post!

  2. Hahaha I was the same – I made Myspace layouts, back when I could code, on Geocities. I used Cutenews, as I couldn’t get my head around FanUpdate or WordPress. At first it was just little posts to say what I’d made that day, but then I started chatting about music. I had a look on the Wayback Machine months ago and was hugely embarassed. I had a little live chat thing as well – was it just called cbox?

    I think anyone who can code a WordPress theme is a genius! I use software called Artisteer for mine. I’m so glad you’ve been able to use all this self-taught knowledge to get a job you enjoy too! Well done Holly! Good luck with writing your own plug-ins and widgets!

  3. Cat

    Aahh, I remember the days of Piczo. A lot of my friends had accounts, but I didn’t get into it for some reason. My older blogs used Greymatter, and I used Fanupdate on a few sites for a time. I totally remember Haloscan and CuteNews too. I recently saw a site using CuteNews, and I was a little shocked? I didn’t know it was still a thing!

    I got into blogging in a very similar manner. I just started writing more about my life on my other sites before making an actual blog with a commenting system. I think that’s neat that Georgie’s tutorials helped you out back then!

    Since moving to WordPress, I haven’t looked back on the other updating/commenting systems either. I’ve even moved other non-blog sites to it to take advantage of the features WordPress has. Plus, it’s kind of nice to just work with one system now!

  4. I started blogging ages ago at Xanga, and since that was a community-like platform, I quite soon started getting comments. The platform was slowly dying but I had two regular visitors, both musicians, and I loved how blogging could be a way to socialise with people. Later I decided that I wanted to blog where people could comment without having an account. Having a comment system that makes it easy for people to comment has always been important to me; that you don’t have to log in, sign up, or whatever, because if it’s simple I believe you will get more comments (however, I read from someone in a group who thought it’s easier to log in than to type in name, e-mail etc in a form every time).
    I’ve tried most blogging platforms that have been around since 2008. After Xanga, WordPress.com, then Blogger, Tumblr, self-hosted WordPress, Rapidweaver’s blogging module, iWeb… etc. I was tired for a while of the security issues with WordPress and used Ghost for a while, when I had a host that supported it. The problem there was comments, since I really disliked Disqus, but I found out how to install Intense debate, and was on Ghost for quite a while. Later I kind of lost interest in blogging but I’m back to it, and I’m now using a newer smaller platform called Bludit, that I really like. It has no comment system, but I was lucky enough that my husband took in a trainee shortly after I started working in our business, and while he (the trainee) was new and we didn’t know his skills, I gave him projects to work on, and one of them was to try to build a comment system for Bludit. It turned out he is brilliant, and built a comment system in little over a week… it has its problems but it works!!! So now I’m testing how much it can handle and have opened a photography blog again. I always have WordPress as a back-up plan, in case the other system doesn’t work.
    The problem with blogging platforms usually is the lack of comment system. It seems nobody wants to build that… and they seem to think everyone is ok with using Disqus which is now packed with ads and trackers and you name it.. and not to mention that their links lead people away from your blog, it’s a hassle to find commenters’ blog url etc.. I have certain (rather basic) requirements of a commenting system, and Disqus doesn’t meet them.
    Sorry for a super long comment! Have a nice Sunday!


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