On March 23, 1995, the Internet welcomed a small, personal web site about a relatively unknown Pennsylvania resident. In a small, tucked away corner of this web site --- which talked about life in Philadelphia and random poetic offerings --- was a modest offering of a secret obsession: All My Children.
For those of you who haven't been around since the very beginning, fear not. Sure, you've missed a great deal of history and almost as much drama as a soap opera. But we're all here now... together.
If you'll indulge me, I'd like to share with you five of the most fun and rewarding years of my life.
Even the most optimistic person could never have envisioned a five-page site transforming into what it is today: a site that serves over 7.5 million page views per month. And it almost never happened.
On March 23, 1995, I established a personal home page with a service called Valleynet. The service is now defunct, but I assure you that I had nothing to do with that! There were five sections to this relatively skimpy site --- a little about me (not that anyone knew me), some poetry and writing, two pages of Philadelphia news, and a section telling everyone that I loved All My Children. Unsure of anyone would ever even see my web site, I included only a few features. There were some storyline previews, a very brief recap, and a listing of all the characters on the show. About three months into the site's run, Valleynet began issuing access reports to show which pages were the most popular and how many people were visiting on a given day. To my surprise, I noticed that fifty people were accessing my AMC page. Compared to the 4 or 5 people that were reading my Philadelphia news, that was an awful lot. So I felt compelled to make the All My Children section better. After all, there were readers to please. The page was broken up and The Scoop and Daily Recaps were born. After a few more months, the number of visitors trickled into the three digit mark. At about the same time, The City, a short-lived ABC soap spun of Loving, debuted. This was a unique chance to cover a soap opera from its birth. Quickly, The City Pages were born. Somewhere within this time period, the www.amcpages.com web address was born. All the other URLs that I wanted were taken, so this seemed to work the best. Then came the troubles.
Valleynet started to go belly-up and they nixed their free web page services. The amount they were going to charge for hosting was way more than I was able to afford. Luckily, I was able to find free hosting services from another company. The honeymoon was short-lived.
While on this other service, MSI something-or-other, The AMC Pages really started to flourish. New features were added, the recaps were being archived, and things grew and grew. Fans of One Life to Live petitioned me to create a site for them because the leading OLTL web site had been shut down. I saw no reason to turn down the requests and quickly put something together for them. Once fans noticed that I'd added a third soap to the lineup, requests to expand coverage flooded my mailbox. As the World Turns and General Hospital followed. If you keep track of such things for trivia purposes, Another World and The Bold and the Beautiful were the final two soaps to gain coverage.
Again, the site was too popular for the free services and the issue of paying for service was raised. I was comfortable paying a nominal sum, but suddenly the hosting company added a few zeroes onto the monthly due price. That just wasn't going to work. In stepped a woman by the name of Teresita Dabreio and everything once again worked itself out. The AMC Pages moved to its very own web server and its current home.
Up until now, let's say 1997, everything operated off of the www.amcpages.com web address. I felt that this didn't really reflect the site anymore because it wasn't just All My Children. That's where the soapcentral.com address came in. From time to time, people still ask me why there are two addresses that link to the same site. So many people have found the pages through the www.amcpages.com web address that it seemed foolish to suddenly change it. Links would have to be altered, search engine would've been wacky, and it seemed best to keep things as is. So I registered a second address. There's a story behind why soapcentral.com was chosen, but we'll save that for another time.
At around the same time that the site got its own server, advertisements started appearing on the individual web pages. It came as a surprise to people, but it was a necessity. Even today it is these ads that keep the site up and running. Essentially, they are the commercials of the Internet. By clicking on the ads or viewing the sponsor's message, you're helping to keep the site up and running. Hopefully, that will explain why the ads appear on the page.
In 1999, we lost two members of the Soap Opera Central web site; Another World and Sunset Beach were both canceled by NBC. These were the first soaps to fall since ABC axed The City. Just because the show was no longer on the air, it didn't mean that there were still not fans of these shows. So I promised to keep all of the defunct soaps on the site.
There are features on the site now that I never thought of when I created my basic recaps page. Mindracker trivia, Rhyme Tyme, Face This, pop-up polls, online chats, and so much more. And, of course, I never expected to have coverage of thirteen soap operas.
I've taken flack over the years from people who don't really understand why I'm maintaining this site. If I had to give a quickie answer, I'd say simply that I enjoy it. Yes, it's a phenomenal amount of work to keep everything running smoothly. I do, however, have a small army of helpers watching my back and helping me update various areas. To them, I will always be grateful. Yes, I get mail from angry site users asking why a feature hasn't been update, why their Internet Provider is always busy, or why I fired an actor they loved. I try to answer every piece of Email I receive, but it's becoming more and more difficult. Several thousand piece of mail hit my mailbox on a daily basis. If you write to me and do not receive a reply, please don't take it personally. I love reading your thoughts and comments. I take your suggestions into consideration and I take the necessary steps to help as many people with technical problems as possible.
It's hard to believe that the site has been online for five years. Back when The AMC Pages went live, there was no EBay, Netscape was still in version 1.0, television commercials didn't tell you to visit their "dot-com," and there were very few web sites out there. I take pride in knowing that The AMC Pages and Soap Opera Central is one of the longest-running entertainment sites on the web. It wasn't the first, but I like to think that it's getting better and better every day. As it grows, I will continue to do my best to add new features, enhance existing features, and make you feel welcome as a guest in my online home. Without you, the users, the site would never have taken off. There are thousands and thousands of you now and it means a great deal to me that you check in on a regular basis and enjoy my work. It's been a pleasure.
If you're able, I'd love to hear from you. When did you first visit the site, what's been the biggest change since you first started visiting --- things like that.
I look forward to celebrating many, many more anniversaries with all of you.
Dan J Kroll