By BILL SHUMWAY
Have you ever wondered why each page of NorthCountryNow.com has two search boxes in the upper right corner of each page?
The answer dates back to the first years of our site, which debuted on Leap Year Day, Feb. 29, 2000.
At that time, when many St. Lawrence County residents were just learning to “surf the web,” finding local websites was difficult. Search engines such as Webcrawler, Lycos and Alta Vista often failed to come up with relevant results and missed many sites.
But that provided an opportunity for NorthCountryNow.com. We aimed to create a site that acted as a “portal” to everything about St. Lawrence County on the internet.
So compiling directories of links to local websites was a major component of our site in those early years.
Visitors to NorthCountryNow.com could find websites hosted by local businesses and lots of “personal home pages” which have been almost completely replaced by Facebook today.
Also included were links to a handful of sites operated on behalf of local governments, organizations and tourism promotion agencies.
Some of the more impressive sites at that time came from the Blake Lake area, with dozens of pages about fishing, available cabins for rent, recreation and other information about the area.
The HERD (Hermon-Edwards-Russell-DeKalb) collection of pages and what is today Community Sites now operated by Bob LaRue were also prominent among our collection of links.
We organized the links by category – with separate pages for Businesses, Recreation, Government, History, etc., -- and viewers could scroll through the alphabetized listings.
But as the number of links grew, it became clear we needed another way for viewers to find the one they were looking for. So our customized search function – just for links -- was created. It remains to this day – as the bottom of the two search boxes on each page.
The link search box works best if you use just one word – try “fishing,” or “pizza,” or the name of your home town to discover how many websites pop up.
Or, you can still browse listings by category – click the “Local Websites” tab on the right of the tool bar at the top of each page, then select the category you are interested in that is listed in green lettering in the second row of the tool bar.
Today, our favorite search engine, Google, and others have perfected their algorithms, and do a pretty good job of finding just about anything you might look for on the web about St. Lawrence County.
But we have nonetheless maintained our collection of thousands of links at NorthCountryNow.com, even though they represent a tiny fraction of viewer traffic. We feel it is still an easy way to find local pages and represents a significant resource for the North Country.
Plus, it can be interesting to scroll through the different categories to discover St. Lawrence County websites you may have never visited before.
The upper-level search box on each page of NorthCountryNow.com can be used to find archived stories or photos posted since the current version of our site went online in the summer of 2010. But since it doesn’t do a great job of finding every link, we’ve kept our old, original “link search” below it.
If you want to take a look at what NorthCountryNow.com looked like in its early years, visit web.archive.org/web/20000512015817/http://www.northcountrynow.com/
Most of the links don’t work and some of the images are missing, but the “WayBack Machine” internet archive provides a general idea of what our home page looked like.
Unfortunately, the WayBackMachine stopped archiving in 2010, and some of the later pages that were saved lack graphics.
But if you’d like to see how NorthCountryNow.com “morphed” through the years, go to wayback.archive.org/web/*/http://northcountrynow.com/
Choose the year at the top of the page, then select a date highlighted on the monthly calendars.