In 1994, among the reasons Microsoft started a website was to put its growing Knowledge Base online. At the time, the company managed support forums for customers on CompuServe, one of the earliest major Internet dial-up service providers.
“We had started to build up a community there; people would answer questions for each other,” recalls Mark Ingalls, a Microsoft engineer in 1994 who would become Microsoft.com’s first administrator. He was also the only website employee at that time, other than his boss. But the staff doubled early on, when Steve Heaney was hired to offer vacation relief, Ingalls says.
In terms of “Web design,” the notion, much less the phrase, didn’t really exist.
“There wasn’t much for authoring tools,” Ingalls says. “There was this thing called HTML that almost nobody knew.” Information that was submitted for the new Microsoft.com website often came to Ingalls via 3-1/2-inch floppy disks.
“Steve Heaney and I put together PERL scripts that handled a lot of these daily publishing duties for us,” he says. “For a while, we ran the site like a newspaper, where we published content twice a day. And if you missed the cutoff for the publishing deadline, you didn’t get it published until the next running of the presses, or however you want to term it.”