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Have you seen an ancient site built for old boys of Loyola School? There is one at block 7744 in the Acropolis suburb of Athens. Ten years after the site was built, I dug up the place and here’s what I found.

Long long ago, circa 1996, Geocities.com was one of the most popular websites. It was also among the first webhosting services that allowed users to host webpages free-of-cost. If you wanted to build a site at Geocities, they would first ask you to pick a neighbourhood (“SiliconValley” for tech-related websites, “Hollywood” for entertainment-related websites). And just as your postal address carried your neighbourhood’s name, your web address too would.

It was in this world of Geocities that Mathew Joseph Pongonthara (1976), the school leader of his batch, decided to build a “cyberhome” for schoolmates. He appears to have been inspired by the other Loyola in his life — Loyola College, Chennai — whose old boys had set up an alumni website the previous year, and on which, Mathew had posted a comment.

The Loyola College alumni website was at Geocities, in the neighbourhood for education-related websites (“Athens”), on block 6166. Mathew built his school’s website in the same neighbourhood, but a few blocks away, in 7744. By the time Mathew decided to establish our school’s online presence, owners were required to choose a suburb too. Mathew chose “Acropolis” inside Athens.

Thus the two Loyola websites had strikingly similar addresses.
http://www.geocities.com/athens/6166/loyola.html
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/7744/LOYOLA.HTM

If you look under the hood — the source code of the school’s page — you will see that Mathew did not envisage the school’s webpage to be vanilla white. He seems to have wanted the same background design as his personal website. But the school site ended up having a plain, white background.

The Loyola College alumni website existed as early as July 1996 and has survived to this day. The school website appears to have come later — in August 1997 — but was not updated after October 1997.

The school site mentions a reunion held in the US; perhaps the idea of setting up the website was discussed in that reunion. To find out, this month I began my search for Mathew and a couple of old boys who might have attended that reunion (in 1997?), but efforts so far have drawn a blank. Webpages tell me that when Mathew is offline, he is in Canada. If Mathew or his friends read this, let us get in touch and fill the gaps in the story of Loyola’s rise on the internet. At loyolites.com, we love the past as much as the future.