Startup Time Machine // The Launch
Part III

Everywhere MSN is ready to launch and what happens next was something completely unexpected


Looking for Part I or Part II?

Everything is ready, without much resources available I've decided to launch the website. I connected up my desktop to my internet cable connection at home and pushed the button to go live without really knowing what to expect. The site was available at www.everywhere-msn.com.

But the site was a huge success for much of my surprise! After the first week I couldn't use my internet connection at home, I really needed to find an alternative.
Dedicated servers were too expensive for my budget so I went for the cheapest possible option for Java Web Applications, a Virtual Private Servers.
Virtualization was still in its infancy but some solutions were already available and much cheaper than dedicated servers so I thought that it could be a nice temporary solution until I find a better way to host the application.

At least now I could use my internet connection at home again and get some work done. It was all going fine until I've received a letter in my mailbox after a couple of weeks.
It was from a lawyer firm representing Microsoft and the letter said that I was breaking the law. MSN is a registered trademark and I couldn't use it in my domain. What a huge blow! I didn't really know what to do, for a couple of days I was really paranoid always looking over my shoulders looking for men in black with dark sunglasses following me.
Until that day I had never really thought about the legal aspects of what I was doing. Reverse engineering the MSN Protocol didn't seem harmful to me, in the end I was just providing alternative access to their network. But after receiving that letter I started questioning if what I was doing was right or not. But people were using the site like crazy, there was really an audience for this application, I didn't know where they came from but that wasn't the point.
In the end all turned out OK. All I needed was to find another domain and they were happy with it, I think that back then Microsoft didn't really understand what the application was all about, all they wanted was that I would not use a domain with "MSN" in it!

So Everywhere Messenger was born or eMessenger for short. The new domain was e-messenger.net. The name fitted well the project, replacing MSN with Messenger made sense because there were other Instant Messaging applications out there and I was already planning to add support for these networks in the future. It was a small bump on the road but nothing more than that, the application was still very successful.

After two months of existence 500.000 logins were registered and the rate of logins was about 20.000 per day. These are staggering numbers, many startups today can only wish for those figures.
Less than two months after that it reached the 1.000.000 mark. I was completely overwhelmed with all this situation. Let me remind you that I was doing this completely by myself while still having to go to my boring work during the day.

The situation was getting out of hand. The whole platform was getting much more complex, there were like 5 servers running the platform, I was still paying for everything myself and then someone hinted me: why don't you use banners on your website? I was a little bit apprehensive in the beginning, I wasn't a big fan of flashy dodgy advertisement on my website but then I gave it some thought and decided to give it a try!

After a month the results were quite satisfactory, the general feeling was: "Why didn't I think of this earlier"? Now I can cover the expenses and spare a little bit of cash. But the problems weren't over. There's only so much stuff I can do, I really needed some extra pair of hands to help me out, I knew I couldn't keep going like this for much longer. It was around this time that I met Onno and JJ who later became my partners in crime.

End of Part III

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