How I Helped Invent The Web

The First PHP Web Development Firm & Host

In 1993 or so, when there was around 1,500 websites in the world, I noticed the University of Toronto website had to be database-driven. That was new, and with a background in databases, I drove to the university and met the webmaster, Rasmus Lerdoff.

At the time, Rasmus was an academic, who didn't see the value in what he created. That changed when I offered to buy it. I left that meeting with an early prototype of what would become PHP, and started the world's first PHP web development and hosting company.

I ran that company for about twelve years, with clients small and large, most of which stayed for life. Our clients included national companies and organizations like The Canadian Wind Energy Association, The Green Party of Canada, and a couple of large biotech companies.

An article written about us in 1997 - four years in:

The First PHP Shopping Cart:

Our first client was The Olde Hide House a well known leather furniture store. We created for them the first PHP store, which I personally developed. There were only a couple of other shopping carts on the Internet at the time, most notably Amazon.

My work showed that online shopping could be achieved by any retailer.

The First Content Management System:

Not wanting to be in the business of updating websites for clients, by 1995, I created the first content management system. This was similar in scope to an early WordPress, ten years before WordPress was released. It had the equivalent of blog posts, repeated structured content, multi-user admin, etc. We gave this away to our hosting clients.

The First PHP Affiliate System

Affiliate software attributes sales to referring partners so they can be credited for their work. We created affiliate software for our clients shortly after Amazon introduced the concept, being the first to bring this sales channel to every day organizations.

Link Redirects

Link redirects was probably invented by TinyURL.com in 2002, but there was no business in it until I released a link analytics service in 2006, two years before Bit.ly started. It did $850K in sales in its first year and introduced a number of marketing techniques that could be accomplished with links. These techniques are now ubiquitous.

Web-based Server-to-server Installs

Another invention of mine is server-to-server installs of web applications. Instead of downloading a .zip file, unzipping it, using an FTP program to upload it, and then editing config files and updating file permissions, our installer did all that in seconds, with no downloads. It also setup databases. This was built in 2005 to remove the barrier to entry in installing my link redirect software, which ran directly off client's web sites.