We're just over a week away now from the new-look Brickset being launched. This will be a landmark in the site's development and will finally confine 'Brickset blue' to history. I know many of you will miss it and claim that the site is 'too bright' without it at the sides, but I do wonder, those of you that say that, don't you visit any other sites? Virtually every mainstream popular site these days is all-white: Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, BBC news, CNN, you name it. Even Eurobricks and MOCPages are.
Anyway, CapnRex101 had the great idea of taking a look at 'Brickset through the ages' to mark this monumental occasion. So, here goes...
In 1997, Internet users, using dial-up links, were provided with web space for a 'home page' by their Internet Service Provider. I used mine for LEGO-related content and the 'Promotional LEGO set reference' was just one aspect of it. At that time, many LEGO co-promotions were running across the world and this page was my attempt at keeping track of them.
I can't find any web archive of the pages, probably because they were on my ISP's server and not at a 'proper' domain address but I did find a copy of the site on a CD-ROM, from January 1998:
The earliest reference I can find to it at Lugnet is in November 1998.
On 4th December 1999 (see Lugnet announcement), the site moved to brickset.co.uk (now a link farm) and by this time contained regular sets as well as promotional ones: 1959 of them -- a fifth of today's total -- according to this screenshot from the Wayback machine from March 2000.
On 14th July 2000 Brickset became a .com, as announced at Lugnet, and underwent a redesign. The main new feature introduced at this time was user reviews: reviews written in 2000 are still in today's database.
Best viewed in IE5 and 1024x768... LOL :-)
In 2002 the site was rewritten in ASP.net and had its design tweaked again. We started posting news on the home page, but users couldn't yet comment on the articles.
Another redesign in 2004, but still no news comments.
Yet another rewrite in 2005. I think this marked the start of the Brickset blue header and sides but they haven't been rendered in the Wayback machine's copy of it. More importantly, it introduced the ability to record your collections on the site, as announced on the home page.
Here's a better rendition of it from later in the year. Does it look familiar? Something that's definitely familiar today is the top news story about retailers' catalogue scans...
In 2007, several significant things happened. First, the database was moved onto SQL Server in January: incredibly it had been just an Access MDB until that time. Second, affiliate links to LEGO.com were added, shortly followed by Amazon and eBay. Users could finally comment on news articles and lastly, in June, the entire database was lost due to a failure of the SQL Server and unusable backups. Luckily I had offline copies and it was up and running again fairly quickly without much data loss. This is is why the first news article in the current database is this one.
The site as we know it today was launched on 26th December, but not without issues, according to the comments on the announcement. The rewrite provided a stable platform which has stood the test of time and enabled me to continue to enhance it, although the techniques and technologies used are making it difficult to do so now.
In January 2009 the site had 13,000 unique users per day. Now it's 53,000.
On 3rd February, the new Brickset design will be launched, the first one in 5 years. I think you'll agree that it's long overdue, even if you have grown fond of the current look. Its launch won't be the end: it will be the beginning of a new era for the site and as long as you continue to visit, I will continue to develop and enhance it.
I hope you enjoyed that potted history. If you want to view and browse the old versions, visit the Wayback machine.
Finally, I should take this opportunity to thank everyone that's helped with the site over the years, particularly Grahame, who mostly works behind the scenes on the database, and who's been doing so virtually since day one.