In early 1994, I was the Manager of Dartmouth’s Computer Resource Center, an artisanal pre-sales and consulting office in Dartmouth’s Computing Services. One morning, the Director of Computing stopped by my office and handed me a floppy disk and told me to check out what was on it. I popped it into my computer and saw that it contained a single application, Mosaic 0.9b. Curious, I launched it and thus began my experiences with the World Wide Web. Within a week, I had created Dartmouth’s first Web site (and one of the first 50 college web sites in the world, near as I could figure at the time). By fall, I created my blog (one of the first ever) and was looking for new, higher-profile projects.
I noticed that TV show websites were becoming a popular and I sought out a show I could get in on. My big obsession at the time was The X-Files so I reached out to the webmasters of one of the better sites offering my help. They told me they had things in hand and didn’t need any help so I cast about looking for other things I could do.
In the fall of 1994, Friends premiered and I noticed that since there was no USENET newsgroup for the show, people were talking about it in alt.tv.mad-about-you, much to the chagrin of the folks there who didn’t care for Friends or who were just OCD about things staying on-topic. It had no website, no mailing list, no newsgroup. And, hey, I really enjoyed the show. So, I sprang into action. I created alt.tv.friends, a LISTSERV mailing list, and a website.
Soon after, a supervising producer of Friends reached out to me to start providing some information back to us fans on the list. He told me that they put the Episode Guide and FAQ up outside the writers’ room to help with continuity. A thriving fandom had been born.
But by around January 1995, as people on the mailing list began to get to know one another more, topics began to stray from the show to talking to each other about anything. Friends were being made. This upset those people who preferred the list stay on-topic and there began to be some anger running around. I decided to split the list into two lists: Friends-TV for discussions only about the show, and FriendsZone for folks to just hang out.
On February 6, 1995 the list was created and the first subscribers began to appear.
The history of this virtual community is long and storied but the short version is that, 20 years later, it is still around. While there is still a mailing list, it is almost never used. Instead, a Facebook group now carries most of the conversation.
And this weekend, in Las Vegas, a group of these folks are getting together to celebrate the 20th anniversary. I wish I could be there with them but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I hope they all have a great time and post a lot of pictures.
Happy Birthday Zone!