Hey everyone, I just wanted to inform you of a little anniversary. I started up Universe Today exactly 10 years ago today, on March 23rd, 1999. Since very few of you know the actual story of Universe Today, I thought I’d regale you with it on this 10-year anniversary.
I was living in Vancouver at the time, working as a project manager in an Internet company. We were helping clients develop websites, but I felt that I didn’t have enough personal experience developing and maintaining a website to really give good advice. I was thinking I should run a website on the side about a topic I was passionate about… but what subject?
On one business trip I stopped at a Barnes and Nobles, browsed through the books section and picked up The Case for Mars by Bob Zubrin, and Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan – I gobbled them up, front to back in a single sitting. I had always been interested in space and astronomy, and was out every clear night as a teenager with my 4″ telescope. I realized that this was the topic that I was most interested in, and I was excited enough about the subject matter that I could keep the website going with my busy job and total lack of spare time.
I started brainstorming domain names; unfortunately space.com was taken. I started mashing together spacey names with other words, and then checked to see what was available. In the end, Universe + Today was open, so I went with that. I hacked together a site with my terrible HTML skills and even worse graphic abilities, but I knew that the purpose of the site would be the articles updated on a daily basis.
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My goal for Universe Today was to teach myself about space and astronomy… by teaching others. Each day I went though all of the breaking news, wrote a quick summary, and then linked out to the originating sources. And this was how things went for years and years. Over time, I learned more and more about space and astronomy, and was able to put this knowledge back into the website. I covered lunar eclipses live, interviewed astronomers and astronauts, and eventually learned how to write longer and better articles.
The website’s traffic and number of subscribers continued to grow. About 3 years ago, the advertising revenue from Google and other advertisers was enough that I could work on Universe Today full time – thanks to a hardworking wife who understands that we need to do what we love to be truly happy (she works in a toy store). Over the last few years, I brought on a team of writers to help get the news out faster and better than what I was doing alone. I’m indebted to Nancy, Ian, Nick, Tammy, Mark, and our newest team member, Anne.
10 years from when I started Universe Today, we’ve now got almost 45,000 RSS subscribers, and receive close to 2 million page views a month. I’m able to pick the brains of an astrophysicist twice a week with our Astronomy Cast podcast. I’ve met professional astronomers, astronauts, and Nobel laureates. I’m a member of a wonderful community of space bloggers, and call many of them my best friends.
It’s funny how a hobby can turn into so much more.
Who knows where we’ll all be in 10 more years? I know what I’ll be doing, though – working on Universe Today; covering the New Horizons close encounter with Pluto, the launch and first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and reporting on astronauts returning to the Moon.
I can’t wait to tell you all about it.