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eXonyte's Realm


The start of something new

Posted by eXonyte at 12:51 AM

Tonight, the first night of 2014, is the relatively quiet but long-in-coming relaunch of the Realm. Welcome. I don't think I've ever written it out before, so here is a history lesson on how eXonyte's Realm came to be.

Back when I first joined the internet in 1997 I went by the moniker NightHawk63, thanks to a suggestion from the Juno service. I found my way to a web-based chat system called WBS and started a little homepage called NightHawk's Site. I was 14 at the time, so of course in my mind having my own website was the greatest thing ever. It wasn't anything notable. Just a few minor pages and stick figure cartoons for navigation buttons. I later added a section dedicated to clean "yo mama" jokes. That was the single longest-lived section on my site. Go figure.

NightHawk63 was a short lived name as during next year, 1998, I decided I didn't like the idea of having a number in my name and I started going by CyberHawk_Z. The Z was simply added to differentiate myself from any other CyberHawks out on the internet. I didn't learn about Dragon Ball Z until later that year, and the coincidence always irritated me. Along with that name change, my site was renamed to CyberHawk's Domain. I still spent a lot of time in chat rooms back then, so I added sections for internet newbies that covered emoticons and acronyms. I doubt it actually helped anyone, but at the time I didn't care. A year later I redesigned the site, making it much cleaner and more bloggy, and added a Pokemon section. During this time I finally moved off of WBS and to the once ubiquitous Geocities.

It got old pointing out that my "Z" had nothing to do with Dragon Ball, and I decided I needed a unique screen name. I wrote a list of a few interesting sounding names off the top of my head and settled on what I've been using for over 10 years now: eXonyte. Again, armed with a new name came a new, very blue website design and a new title: eXonyte's Realm. This design ended up living through the high point of the Realm's life. I had gotten hooked on mIRC scripting by this point so I ditched the Pokemon section and added a section for mIRC. I also added a sidebar with the current version of some software that I made use of. I eventually installed IIS and PHP on my home computer and rewrote the Realm to be database powered. Soon after this is when I got involved in MSN Chat and I released my mIRC addon Vincula to the public.

Vincula was the catalyst for the height of the Realm's popularity. Thanks to the commenting system and the shoutbox, there was a lot going. Vincula made it easy for MSN users to connect using mIRC instead of the very limited ActiveX based webchat that was native to the system, so its popularity exploded and it became one of the most popular connection scripts of MSN Chat's lifetime. I offered posting permissions on the Realm to some of my closest internet friends at the time, and it became what one of those friends later referred to as a "blog orgy". There was never a solid theme for the Realm, and it was really just a bunch of friends with similar interests posting whatever they found interesting. I remember seeing thousands of hits per day and being utterly amazed at the amount of traffic a new Vincula release could generate.

By this point it is 2005, and in May I launched the previous revision of the Realm: the white design. This design included a much improved system on backend featuring a custom, forum based discussion system powering comments and a lot of management features that the blue design lacked. Through this design I hoped to enhance the site for its users and take out some of the administration limitations of the previous site. I liked to refer to this backend as the Essence Engine and with the help of Ziggy we were going to go open-source and release it, but nothing really came of that because it was more work than it was worth in the end. We even had a few posts from the Louisiana-based members just letting everyone else know they were safe in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In October of 2006 MSN Chat shut down and even with the revival of the shoutbox feature from the former site thanks to a member called Fayte, there just wasn't enough to draw a crowd. Usage dwindled without the focus on MSN Chat that there once was. There were still a handful of people hanging around, but by the middle of 2007 I was looking at the next step. A few ideas were tossed around, but nothing came to fruition. I got married and in the process of building a life with my new wife, I just didn't have the will to keep up with a regular posting schedule. With Ziggy being the only person to have posted on the front page during 2008, that October I cut off new registrations and announced the closure of the site.

In that final post I promised that the Realm would return once it had a purpose. It took a few years to decide what that purpose could be. In the meantime, I started researching content management systems and I eventually settled on one called MODX and paired that with the hosted commenting system Disqus. The freedom for design that MODX allows combined with the release of not having to code another new backend helped spur me on to create a template. Once that was done, I still needed a purpose. I considered tying in to social media APIs to create a sort of aggregated profile for myself, but that was much more complicated than I wanted. After taking an IT consulting job, I thought about cases where I had come across something obscure and couldn't easily find a solution, or had come across something interesting that was a bit more information than is useful for a Facebook post. The Realm's purpose was born of those thoughts: A place where I can share stories and information in long form. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to open it up to guest posters like it was before, but it is a future possibility for sure.

You are now looking at a website that I hope will be able to reclaim some of its former charm. I want it to be alternately entertaining and informative for anyone who is still lingering, or anyone who is new to the whole thing. Seventeen years is a long time for a single website to be around and many of the biggest websites nowadays have been around for less than that. Wouldn't it be crazy if The Realm stuck around for another seventeen years?

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