This site was born in April of 1997. The internet boom resulted in everyone with an opinion having a personal website. To be honest, I found it a bit ridiculous. It was not until a computer class at UCLA that I was forced to create a site. I really had no idea what to put on it. I had a few pictures, some information about myself and a small tribute to the San Francisco 49ers on my newly created web site. I really enjoyed creating the site. I had no idea that this was the start of something big.
A new site is born
Eventually, the site moved from UCLA's student servers to a free web hosting service. I posted the link in a few online directories and the site started to get a few visitors each day. I was pretty excited about this. I removed all the personal information from the site and focused primarily on 49ers information. At the time, the site was mostly visited because of the image gallery that I put up.
That summer, I bought an HTML book and learned the language. I bought a computer for school that September. I started visiting many other 49ers sites learning how they did things and trying to figure out how I could offer something that they did not have. Back then, Spike's 49ers Page was the top 49ers fan site on the web and probably the best resource for 49ers information anywhere. Sadly, it no longer exists. I remember coming across a site called The 49ers Zone which was run by a Timothy Imrick. He had created such a great looking site so I took a shot in the dark and decided to contact the him. We quickly started exchanging emails and talking via ICQ (remember that?). He showed me the ins and outs of frames and other coding, which seemed advanced at the time. Things on my own 49ers site were moving along thanks to all my new knowledge.
The site becomes a little more known
At the time, the site was known as The 49ers Homepage. The site now had 20 to 30 visitors a day. That seemed like a lot of people at the time. More and more fan sites started linking the site. It was even referenced on Spike's 49ers Page. Soon that 20 to 30 visitors turned into 30 to 40, then 40 to 50. It was so unbelievable and fairly entertaining. Content grew gradually but it wasn't always the prettiest of packages. Soon, it became too much for one person to manage. Help was needed. A limited staff joined the site and started writing commentaries. With some original content now on the site, it's popularity continued to grow.
Before anyone had realized, the 1998 offseason had passed. Despite the lives of the staff becoming busier and busier, the site continued on.
49ers Webzone emerges
Once the 1998 NFL season started, more and more fans flocked to the site. Visitors per day were now in the hundreds. Spike's 49ers Homepage was no longer being updated and the 49ers Zone had disappeared. Tim went on to help with the 49ers message board on a community site and would eventually join this site for a short time. Things were taking off. More staff members jumped onboard. Things were going well for the team and with that, interest in the site grew. What really shocked some people was the change of the layout. It was a massive overhaul from a black background, frame based site, to a white background, table based site. The layout was cleaner and content was a bit simpler to locate. Fans started to see that we were serious about covering their team. The season went by and we did our best to cover it by delivering content from all over the web. People did not really enjoy scouring the web for 49ers news and updates so our goal turned into becoming a one stop resource for news from all over the internet.
With the increase in content and visitors, the site needed a new name. "The 49ers Homepage" just was not going to cut it anymore. The 49ers Webzone was born.
During 1999, the site was now getting over 400 hits a day. The layout of the page changed once again, but not as drastically as the previous change. The 49ers Webzone had become the official 49ers Content Partner for XSlant.com and joined a group of NFL fan sites called the Fan2Fan Alliance. The goal of this was to increase our reach to the sports community. The season started, traffic increased, and the staff continued to work hard at improving the site. However, it was still a smaller site and as always, fans had a number of alternatives. Something needed to be done to attract more users to the site. For the first time ever, we were looking to actually spend money on this fan created project.
In 2000, 49ers Webzone acquired 49ersfootball.com and the domain 49ersfootball.net. While plans to replace the "49ers Webzone" name were in the works, nothing ever came of it. At the time, the NFL was looking for any reason to shut down popular fan sites. 49ers Webzone was even approached by the San Francisco 49ers organization in an effort to close the site down. After much discussion, an agreement was reached that allowed the site to continue. Eventually, the NFL grew to understand that fan sites simply add another level of free advertising for their teams and only increase a team's popularity.
To this day, 49ersfootball.com and 49ersfootball.net still redirect to 49erswebzone.com.
49erswebzone.com goes commercial
By 2001, the site was simply referred to by its domain name, 49erswebzone.com. I finally decided on a reliable hosting provider and moved toward a more professional format. The implementation of a community message board in late 2000 brought about the first interactive aspect of the site. Costs went up, but so did the traffic. With these new costs, the decision to include advertising on the site emerged. Still dedicated to serving the fans as the staff had been doing for many years, there was the need to cover the new costs of maintaining the site. By 2002, over 3000 people a day visited 49erswebzone.com. By 2003, that number reached over 4000 people a day. With a small online community now forming, the site added online postcards, chat rooms, downloads, a fan directory, store, and much more.
The staff writer number increased and things seemed to be rolling along. While a little competition is healthy, the need to team up with a number of other 49ers fan sites became necessary and helped to increase all of our exposure. Relationships were built and we even worked together on certain projects in an effort to deliver the best fan experience possible.
An example of these relationships includes the interaction 49erswebzone.com has with 49ersparadise.com. The two sites work together during the NFL Draft, share a chat room and combine fan question and answer sessions with various experts. Resources between the two sites are even shared at times.
As of April 2007, 49erswebzone.com is visited by over 35,000 fans a day. The 49ers fan community is one of the most active on the internet. Friendships have been created, relationships have been formed and a sense of family is enjoyed by some of the members. Costs have gone up but is balanced out by our ability to effectively advertise on the site. Our goal is still the same. 49erswebzone.com is the fans' online resource to everything 49ers related. Whether you are looking for the latest news or just want to become part of the 49erswebzone.com community and make some friends, this site can deliver.
It's been a fun ride so far. It's still a tedious task running this site, but some of the feedback we receive from fans and the interaction we observe makes it worth it. Who knows what the future holds for the site? I just know that without the fans, we would not be where we are. Thank you to everyone that has supported us over the years and we hope that you continue to do so.