Back in April of 1998, during the 25th year reunion, John Harrell thought it would be a great idea if Jubilate had a website. The first website for Jubilate went live in October 1998. We called it The Jubilate Alumni Email List. Members had to give their approval to be put on the list. The site was hosted on America Online’s servers. Uptime for the site was eight plus years. Despite employing various security tricks, it became too risky to have hundreds of relatively easily accessed email addresses on a website. Toward the end there were about 300 email addresses. The main purpose of the site was to encourage and enable Jubilums to find and connect with each other. You know, like social networking.
The main page of the site was an alphabetical list of names of alumni. Each name was a clickable “mailto:” link that would open one’s default email program with the chosen member’s email address already placed in the Send To field of the email. Back in 1998, that’s how email worked. Web-based email didn’t exist as it does now. I have used the internet since 1993, and I don’t recall seeing or hearing of a social networking site like Jubilate’s original website. It was designed to aid people who shared a bond across decades to find and connect with each other at a time when things tended to be more anonymous. Finding someone on the internet you actually knew in the real world was far less commonplace than it is now. Try to browse the web and not find a social networking link today. Now it’s as if the internet was made to help you connect with friends. Jubilate’s original website was one of the first such sites. Although unlikely, I suppose there’s a chance it could have been the first. It was a long time ago. MySpace.com arrived five years later, and it was six and a half years before Facebook began to take over the world.
Here are some interesting side notes. The word “jubilate” was one of the last eight single words left in the English language that had not been snapped up and used with “.com”. We could have owned it from the beginning. A suggestion was floated to consider putting a member’s picture next to their name on the email list. We had a stronger pretense of privacy then than we do now. The picture idea was not approved. There were special holiday versions of the site. If memory serves, there were versions for Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween (my fav). There may have been a Valentine’s Day version.
A Valentine’s Day version is very likely, given the inspiration for the idea behind the website. I know that the person who wrote the site wanted and tried to reach another member of Jubilate for more than a decade but had run out of ways to do that. So our coder came up with an idea that now resembles primitive social networking to have one more way to possibly reach her. Time and circumstance can separate any of us, and that happened to those two. The website was created for all of Jubilate, but also with the specific hope of reaching just one member. Social networking for Jubilate was born from hope and the love of one person for another. During the eight years that I ran the site, Margie Fields Smith did not find it. After the site went offline more than another decade passed before I finally found her again. And let me tell you, children of God, that moment was worth the wait.