Founded by David Ring (aka The Ring Man aka Ringy), the website Backwash.com officially began it’s innovative life in 2000. The concept behind the site was to address Information Overload and the resulting Option Paralysis, a term coined by Douglas Coupland in Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, which means the tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none. Amazingly, this is something we still fight today.
Backwash offered a simple but novel approach to this problem: The Internet Organized By Personality. As stated in the official mission statement, “Our goal at Backwash is to save you from Information Overload. To filter all content, not just news, and weed out the dross. We do this by grouping people into collaborative surfing communities which let like-minded people find content and products across all subjects. In effect, we are filtering and sorting the Internet by personalities rather than subject matter.”
From the official “how it works” page:
Backwash scours the Internet for the best content available and then delivers it to you based on your tastes and personality, all in one convenient location. We save you time and hassle and help you discover great content you otherwise wouldn’t even know about. We also provide an outlet for you to easily meet and interact with people with similar tastes as your own!
We are the only service of its kind, comprised of thousands of community participants who help hand-filter the Internet and then organize it in a way to let you quickly find content of interest to you.
For webmasters, we make it easy to add our content and features to your website, improving the quality and stickiness of your own offerings.
[When was the last time you discussed website “stickiness”?! My-oh-my, how old I feel reading that!]
What Backwash, or BW as we often called it, delivered was original content, blogging, content curation, communities and forums, newsletters, and sharing tools — combined with social networking, all based on the personalities of regular columnists. All of this at a time when some of these things were new, unnamed even. They certainly were not the media buzzwords we use today.
Within a year, Backwash was an up & comer in terms of the Internet, garnering plenty of press and nominations for awards, such as SXSW’s Best Weblog.
By 2003, Backwash had spun-off into Adult Backwash, Kids Backwash, Backwash Lit, and Backwash Pets (the debut of Backwash Pets, social networking for pets, made big news, appearing on Tech TV and making CNN Headline News). Columnists even saw payment for their writing at the site. (A token amount of $1 per column or newsletter; but for many of us, it was the first step to being legit as a professional writer!)
However, David Ring’s focus quickly became the social networking aspect and Sparta Networks was launched in 2003. As more resources went into Sparta over the next few years, Backwash became the ugly step-child, eventually left stagnant in 2007 and from there it slowly spiraled into the dusty ashes of the Internet known as The Way Back Machine. *sigh*
While the social networking tech stuff may have been the most valuable commodity of the site, what drove Backwash was the concept, The Internet Organized By Personality — and the personalities involved.
Now, roughly a decade since what was arguably Backwash.com’s heyday, many of the former Backwash columnists and curators are feeling nostalgic… BW launched some great friendships, at least one marriage, a great number of classic Internet websites and cult personalities, as well as a host of other great stories. We hope to share some of them here. Along with documenting the past and waxing nostalgic for a great website, we’ll be bringing you up to date on the status of former BWers who participate in this Backwash Reunion.
As for why this site is called “Wry Toast”… A) It was a domain name Deanna had that wasn’t currently being used, and 2), the Backwash.com is now toast (and more than a few of us are called “wry” now and then too).