A moment of silence for Pobladores

Probably most people who accidentally fall in here won’t know what ‘Pobladores’ is. The word ‘Poblador’ is Spanish for ‘settler’ or ‘inhabitant’ but it was also an Internet community and a social network at a time these word weren’t as common as they are today. We are talking of the early 2000s.

Pobladores Logo

Pobladores was active from around 2000 to 2014. In the latter years it was like a forgotten old man. It was launched by Arrakis, a Spanish ISP later bought by BT and was physically hosted in Seville, southern Spain, where the disappeared Arrakis operated. At some point, they partnered with Lycos (a company also owned by Terra-Telefónica), and the service renamed to Pobladores-Lycos. All these changes and ventures sound a little like dot-com bubble, don’t they?

A new generation of young Spaniards like me were starting to use Internet with low connections (and expensive, I must add, thanks to the abuses of the Spanish ISPs). This was the time of long forgotten webspaces like Melodysoft, or the more common PHPBB Forums. It was the time of the amazing Geocities, or other web hosting providers like EresMás, Tripod (also part of Lycos), iEspaña and so forth.

Is in this scenario is where I found Pobladores. The way it worked was simple. You created an account. That was you as a ‘poblador’, as a settler. Then, you could create your own Poblado, your own settlement, or join to an existing one. It was like joining a discussion group with web content. The most common criterion for creating a Poblado was the content. As an example, there were a bunch of Poblados about anime, videogames (especially Age of Empires, Counter Strike or Final Fantasy), TV shows, celebrities, etcetera. Actually, this concept is not really original. Geocities had neighborhoods and each user was a ‘homesteader’. Well, coming back to Pobladores, I created two worth-mentioning Poblados, one about the videogame saga Sonic the Hedgehog and the other about a North American-Canadian science fiction show called First Wave. I created the first one around April 2002. Now, both are gone.

An example of the services this web community offered

More about the functioning of the social web service: the Poblado will display the number of ‘pobladores’ or users joined and its average score. Yes! You could vote the social group. This was used as kind of a leaderboard. In fact, it wasn’t rare to find messages asking for a good vote or for joining the Poblado. It was easy to spot, as it is on LinkedIn or Twitter, this kind of behavior, which goes as the following: ‘if you join my Poblado, I’ll join yours’. You were invited every now and then to join Poblados that weren’t related at all to your interests. Everything to scratch a good vote or a user. As a founder, I was requested many times to link somebody else’s Poblado in mine and I would get mine linked if I did so.

In this screenshot you can see the creator of the Poblado, visits, inhabitants (users that joined), last update and the ranking.

You could interact with other users through email, forums or chat. According to this old newspaper article, it had 832.000 users in 2002. There were no timelines, no pic sharing, no tagging in content, but there was a lot of interaction.

It had its own CMS for creating the web content. Maybe calling it a CMS is a little too much. I don’t intend to compare it with Joomla! or WordPress but it had a system for creating webpages, categorizing them in areas or subareas, uploading content… It was often laggy (I can’t tell if this was because of my poor connection or because of the Pobladores servers) and it was often down. Very often. Actually, after they merged with Lycos, the updated version and the service changed so much that I migrated my web to Geocities.

The enriched text editor of the Pobladores web creation tools wasn’t advanced nor comfortable, so you had to rely on raw HTML to create a decent webpage. [A break: can anyone relate to those old <marquee> codes in webpages?]. It helped you create a web since you didn’t have to use FTP, or deal with servers for hosting, but the process wasn’t as easy as it is in a current CMS. Despite that, it wasn’t bad. Actually, sometimes it feels better when technology doesn’t spoon-feed you.

Anyway, all Pobladores URLs redirect to Lycos.com and that web only redirects to other unrelated services of the company. It is still possible to navigate through a very incomplete version available at Internet archive services, for example this one, but much of it is lost. I have tried it with my own Poblado and most links and images are broken.

I wrote this article for two reasons: First, nostalgia. I was fourteen years old when I first created a Poblado. Now it looks like other age, other kind of Internet, other interests. Second, perspective. Pobladores was never an extended tool —relatively speaking. People didn’t make a living out of it, students didn’t use it as a tool for learning and nobody posted there a pic of the last jump on the beach. But imagine it for a second. Imagine that back then it was very important. Now it’s long gone and forgotten. And this tells me something: we cling to online services and ICT for our everyday activities and get used to them (say, Google, Facebook, for example), but this tools are operated by companies that, like most things, come and go.

Hope you enjoyed the reading and thanks to Pobladores!