It may be hard to believe today, but Paintball Times began way back when no one even knew what paintball was. Back in 1990, a group of high school friends decided to play paintball somewhere near Toledo, Ohio. They all had heard of this "war game" (that's what it was called) and wanted to give it a try. At the time, none of them knew what they were getting into.
Mohammed Alo, Sami Khan, their brothers and some friend who were in medical school decided to play paintball. The field was very far away, near a nuclear plant, but they were bent on playing. After debating for days, they finally decided to go. Little did they know that this was going to be the start of something big.
After an exhilarating experience and a fantastical rush unlike any other, they were hooked. They continued to play and pay for paintball for many years to come. Eventually, they began playing at Toledo Assault Games (that was the name back then) and made some real friends in the industry. Erich Garber of TAG encouraged the young boys and supported their expensive habit with paintballs and equipment. Garber was involved with Tippmann.
Late in 1992, Mohammed and Sami decided to start up a paintball newsletter. After debating for a while, they called it, "The Splatter Times". They began publishing this newsletter using their home computers and a laser printer at the local Kinkos. They were both great with computers and graphics. They distributed The Splatter Times to local paintball shops and fields as far away as Flint, Michigan, Chicago, and all around the Midwest.
A copy of the original premiere issue is available as a pdf file for your viewing pleasure. Click now to view the issue that changed paintball history.
The Splatter Times gained substantial notoriety and gravitas after professional paintball player Oh Pawlak of the Ironmen joined the writing staff. Later, Peter Suciu and Bret Golihew joined the staff and began the internet paintball revolution. All of these writers went on to write for other print paintball magazines and websites. Oh Pawlak now owns Predator Paintball in California and is making quite a living.
Mohammed and Sami were having a lot of fun and enjoying the experience. Article after article, review after review, they continually published their "print" newsletter. As more and more shops and fields carried their newsletter costs became an issue. In 1995 they looked into a sponsorship with Office Max, but were unable to broker a deal with the Cleveland, Ohio headquartered corporation.
Eventually, costs became too high and managing the newspaper became difficult. They knew that The Splatter Times would be finished if they did not alter the way they published the paper. However, they continued to publish the print edition of their newsletter until late 1999. The very last issue contained advertising and information about LND Tournaments in Toledo, Ohio.
In the meantime, early in 1992 Mohammed, who was becoming web savvy, had developed his own website dedicated to the sport of paintball. It was called "Malo's Paintball". It was hosted on a free service, Geocities.com, before they were bought by Yahoo. Malo's Paintball became quite a hit and by 1994 was far ahead of the upstart Warpig in its extent and depth. Warpig basically didn't really exist back then except as random information about paintball on a website on a university server named "warpig".
Late in 1993, Mohammed Alo decided to merge Malo's Paintball with The Splatter Times newsletter. This was the beginning of something very, very special. The Paintball Times was born in 1993; the world of paintball has never been the same.
The Splatter Times, as it was known, was still hosted on geocities.com and eventually in 1996 we were asked by Internet Paintball Resource to join their website as a subdomain. Being new to this, we were extremely excited. Leaving geocities was a difficult but necessary step. We lasted on the Internet Paintball Resource website for a good two years before having to move again.
While on the Internet Paintball Resource website, we continually maintained our geocities website to match. We kept both websites maintained and up to date for many years. We did not want to loose visitors or misdirect any surfers that were used to our old address.
Mohammed and Sami went to college together starting in 1994. They remained great friends and continued to work together. Both were "pre-medical" and both played paintball every weekend. Eventually, they went through plenty of markers and had tons of articles published. Some of their earlier articles still appear on the site today, barely altered. But hundreds of their articles were lost due to computer hard drive crashes and becoming obsolete.
Mohammed and Sami both graduated from college in 1998. Mohammed with a degree in Economics, and Sami with a degree in Biology. Sami went on to become a pilot at a school in Florida. Mohammed applied to medical schools and began a masters degree. In 2001 Mohammed was accepted into a medical school in Chicago. In 2002 Sami finished his aeronautical training.
After the September 911 attacks, Sami was instrumental in helping the authorities track down the terrorists. Although he attended the school across the street, he devoted his time and energy into doing his patriotic duty and serving our country as best he could, by assisting the proper authorities.
Paintball Times had grown in popularity, readership, and depth. Mohammed went on to register a corporation in Ohio called "The Splatter Times Corp." But later in 1998, Mohammed decided to purchase the domain name "paintballtimes.com".
It was time for the Splatter Times to graduate to its own server and name. With the purchase of the name "PaintballTimes.com" this meant that the Splatter Times no longer could exist as "The Splatter Times" under the Internet Paintball Resource website. Everything had to be reworked. Now, we'd be maintaining three concurrent websites.
The decision to purchase PaintballTimes.com rather than SplatterTimes.com was an important, crucial and pivotal one. We wanted the word "paintball" in our domain name. It not only helps in searches, but it defined who we were. We are the New York Times of paintball.
Paintball Times is born
Throughout 1998 and 1999 everything was changed over to "The Paintball Times". Even the corporation had its name changed. Our last few issues of our print magazine were even changed to our new name. A new era of development and promotion began with the new name and server. However, until today, there are still those who call us "Splatter Times".
We quickly got listed on Yahoo and other important directories, and Yahoo still has us listed as "Splatter Times" till today--although they do have our web address right. Magazines sometimes still print our articles and name as splattertimes.com, although it does not exist.
All throughout the years, our website had changed with the times (no pun intended). When it was cute in 1995 to have little splat noises activate when someone clicked a link, we had them. When it was cool to have different browsers see different pages we did that. When it was cool to allow users to change background colors, we blocked it (we had to draw the line somewhere).
But all throughout, we maintained an aire of professionalism and decency. We were known not for following trends, but setting them. We basically looked to the New York Times as our example. In 1998, HTML 4.0 had been finalized and our code was upgraded to match. Our website looked and ran exactly like the New York Times.
All throughout our history, we maintained our navigation style. Our website was one of the easiest websites to navigate and we wanted to maintain its ease of use. We left all of our articles on the left hand side. Basically every page allows you to go from article to article.
Throughout most of our websites history, our code was static. Someone would add the new articles, create all the links and upload all of the files. The process was very tedious and tiresome.
Times goes dynamic, users respond
In 1998 we learned how to make part of our website more dynamic by using Macromedia Drumbeat and the power of Microsoft's Active Server Pages. We added sections for users to post stories, field reviews, links, store listings, and marker reviews. We were the first paintball website to allow such advanced user response. We have made every attempt to keep these older sections alive on our current site.
Late in 1999, Paintball.com was purchased by Burt Talcott, a Tacoma Washington paintball shop owner. He asked if he could use some of our articles as they began developing their own. We gladly agree, and in 2000 our articles were appearing on paintball.com. Eventually, they gained their own staff and writers and grew into the site that they are today.
Paintball.com was registered in 1996 and prior to 2000, paintball.com was not even a blip on the radar screen. The only two real paintball behemoths were Warpig.com and PaintballTimes.com. Eventually, in 2003 Paintball.com was able to overcome PaintballTimes.com and battle with Warpig.com for first place month in and month out.
This was a setback for our staff. We had always proclaimed that we were always either number one or number two when it came to paintball information websites. We didn't know why this happened, but the market was moving. Later that year, in the middle of 2003, we realized that our host was the problem.
Creation of the first untainted forum
In March of 2003 we added a user forum and chat room. We were never big fans of chat services or discussion forums, because of the way they used to work. They were clumsy, difficult to navigate and did not look very good. We wanted to maintain our professional look, while incorporating a forum. We finally found a suitable solution with the MegaBBS software currently installed.
We normally like to be leaders in the online paintball world, but in this case we had to follow. A lot of paintball websites hosted forums, but none of them were independent. The vast majority of forums we found were owned by a store, manufacturer or online retailer. That wasn't very honest.
After reading the many letters our readers sent in, we decided to start a forum. One that did not censor anyone and was not associated with any products, fields, stores, or retailers. We maintain this unbiased approach till today. Our forum eventually grew into a unique community of unbiased users and opinions. We do not delete any posts or censor any opinions, even if you post that "Paintball Times Sucks." In fact, we have a section for you to critique our articles and website.
In late 2003, as traffic climaxed our host for the last 5 years, Interland.com, could no longer host our site; not because they couldn't handle our site, but because they did not want to. PaintballTimes.com became a burden to them and they threatened to remove us on a number of occasions. Efforts were made to broker a better deal, but none could be reached.
Totally database driven site revamp
In the summer of 2003, our web staff (God Bless them) spent the better part of their summer vacations fine-tuning and revamping the website. The product they came up with is one of the most advanced, user-friendly, dynamic, database-driven websites that is known to mankind.
Unfortunately, the site was so server and database intensive that our site routinely would not work. Surfers were receiving "Internal Server Error 500: Server too busy" errors all the time. Forum users could only login and post for the first few days of each month. It was becoming ridiculous.
The new PaintballTimes.com content management system is basically one of the most unbelievable advancements in paintball websites. In fact, our website is so advanced, that it is completely oblivious to the average surfer. Most surfers think we just jazzed up our graphics and layout.
What surfers can't see is the writers logging in, adding articles, uploading images and editors logging in to edit. They can't see the administrators logging in to manage the advertisements, change advertisers, banners, and email our subscribers. They can't see advertisers logging in to check on clicks and impressions. They can't see forum admins logging in to administer the forum. All of this is done by filling out a few forms in any browser from anywhere in the world.
PaintballTimes.com is running one of the most complex, powerful content management systems available for websites today, and we are very proud of our new system.
In August of 2003, we almost had a new deal with a new host, Webhost4life.com, but lost contact with them (read: they dissed). Then, halfway through January of 2004 Interland shut down PaintballTimes.com after reaching a climax of 1.3 million hits.
While scrambling to find a new host and drafting up a new "Request For Proposal" we came upon Will from Gearworx.net. We were looking at their plans and started a chat session with him. Jerry A. Gaston struck up a great deal with Will and the rest is history.
PaintballTimes.com is now on its own dedicated server with plenty of resources and bandwidth. Our databases are now MS SQL databases running on the latest MS SQL Server. This provides our surfers with an extremely fast interface. We are expecting an annual growth in traffic and users of 30% every year.
Directing the web directory
In January of 2004, while searching for a good web directory for paintball, and not finding one, Jerry came up with a great idea: Why not start our own directory? All of the paintball directories that were available online were in some way inadequate. Some were managed by non-paintball players and hence the links were out of date, in the wrong category, and simply not well maintained.
Other link directories were hosted on websites that had an ulterior motive. One directory owner would not add your link to his directory, until you added his; thereby trying to create a lot of links to his site, in the hope that search engines would rank him higher. Another website was charging money for listings? One very established paintball website had great links, but the links were extremely difficult to navigate and were not in any order or in categories. We were really disappointed.
The Paintball Times staff was determined to create the most unbiased, well edited, paintball links directory available. Hence, our directory project was born. Our staff, admins, forum moderators and the paintball public all jumped in and began adding links, editing and maintain the new directory. It is our hope that the new directory will be the ultimate in paintball links and resources.
Back to basics
Our staff is now busy doing what we love doing; writing articles. Our number one priority after all the website updates, is to get back to writing. We want our visitors to have the latest information, most in-depth reviews, and greatest articles. We will continually march towards this end, unabatedly.
And with that, the latest chapter in the history of Paintball Times comes to a close. The story isn't over and will eventually go on forever.
We want to thank everyone who has made Paintball Times what it is today. Although, we can no longer report on local Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan tournaments, we love to hear about them in our discussion forum. We still have our old LND and GLP tournament reports posted and available, with all the pictures intact.
To our supporters, friends, readers, staff and everyone that has been behind us since 1990: THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts. We love you all!
We look forward to maintaining our relationship with you all.