Monday, April 17, 2006

A virtual jubilee

Today there is a virtual celebration yesterday of the founders and collaborators of the Dutch language site Ouders Online (Parents Online), in this blog abbreviated to OO. It was on April 17th, 1996 that the site was launched. The site has grown to be an authority on rearing kids. Every month 230.000 unique visitors pass by and consult some 7 million pages, with 30.000 messages monthly on their Forum.

The start of the site was in the early days of Dutch internet. The year 1994 can be seen as launching year for Dutch consumer internet with the digital city project (De Digitale Stad). One year on, ISPs like Euronet*Internet and Planet Internet started to compete for consumers. Contrary to the trend of portals, OO became one of the first online communities. They meet each other in the Forum and the chatroom, make theme pages and have private contacts. Besides this community of natural parents, the site is frequented by professionals such as general practioners, pedagogues, midwifes and nurses.

OO was not exactly the natural party to start up this site. At that time VNU Magazines – these days Sanoma Magazines – had an authoritative printed magazine on bringing up kids, called Ouders van Nu (Contemporary Parents). But at that time VNU Magazines were still toying with the idea of bringing magazines online. So when OO got online, VNU Magazines took defensive, legal action, claimed domain hijacking and asked the court to prohibit the use of the name. But as there was no resemblance with the name and VNU Magazines were not active online, the domain name did not have to be transferred to VNU Magazines. Also the second case brought by VNU Magazines failed. The court case was the best advertisement OO could get, but lawyers do not come cheap.

The site is rather independent. The forum is principally not moderated. As such OO can not be bought for an opinion by a government institute or by a company. This does not make the life of the founders easy, but so far they are still a force in the market and have success. And rightly so. Congratulations Henk Boeke and Justine Pardoen.


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