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Babylon5.com – The Beginning

The journey to bring Babylon 5 to it’s own private space on the Internet began in 1994. The web hadn’t quite yet reached mainstream, and America Online was one of the most popular service providers for going “online.” On the service, Warner Bros. had secured an agreement with AOL to bring the TV show EXTRA to its own area. Jim Moloshok hired several people from HollywoodOnline.com to come work for WB, and after getting EXTRA up and running, they did a few videos for Babylon 5 that were uploaded to the EXTRA site. These included Ivanova saying “Captain, we have visitors from EXTRA Online on board” and others.

Flash forward to 1995 when Warner Bros. saw the future of the web and began putting together a team to create Warner Bros. Online. Their first properties were the already formed EXTRA and Babylon 5. Before the AOL area could be completed, however, they knew they had to get a site on the Internet created. At the time, the biggest WB property was a portal called Pathfinder, and Babylon 5 was put online with a pathfinder.com/babylon5 address. (This is around the time when I joined the WBOL crew.)

Seeing the need for its own domain name, WB wanted the domain name Babylon5.com, but it was taken by a fan, who had only put up a lone picture of Laurel Takashima from the pilot. Through letters and email, WB eventually secured babylon5.com for itself, and managed to transfer the site to the new domain before pathfinder.com lost all of its operating capital and was shut own.

The web site used many of the elements that were simultaneously designed for the AOL site. These clunky screens used image aps to map out areas on the graphics that fans could click on to access the various areas.  An example is below.

upside-down1

 

Once the AOL and web site were up, WB began getting deluged with emails that the station in the lower right hand corner of the screens was upside down.  WB then corrected the image on the web site, and began the process of redoing the art for the AOL site.

upsidedown-3

Art for AOL had to be “downloaded” by the client/user’s computer. So a workaround was used where the station was actually an additional piece of art that was downloaded on top of the existing one.  This had the effect of downloading the big image first, and then a replacement graphic popping into view over the other one once it had downloaded.

I visited the set numerous times over the years, but it wasn’t until later when we were doing the Quicktime VR panoramas that I glanced down and noticed something on the main ob-dome control panel.

There, in the lower right hand corner of the actual control panel, was a graphic of the station… oriented exactly the way we had it when we launched the site!

upsidedown2


This story still makes me laugh when I think about all the uproar the “upside down” station caused when it was put online. I haven’t put it in writing before, so I hope you enjoyed it.

-Troy

About Troy

Troy Rutter was the original webmaster and producer of Babylon5.com and Keyword: Babylon5 on America Online. One of the "first ones" of fans, Troy continues to enthusiastically promote the show and remains active in B5 fandom. His ultimate goal is to create a traveling B5 exhibit to take to cons throughout the U.S.

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