This is actually more like a brief prehistory, since I kept no record of changes before Jan 1, 2000.
The site was launched in early 1996 under the title "The Etymology of First Names". I had just finished a few linguistics courses and I wanted to put something related on the web. It was just one of many websites I created back then, though it's the only one still maintained. The site was hosted under my UVic account (a clear violation of my department's rule that all student websites be computer science related) and the address was www.engr.uvic.ca/~mcampbel/etym.html. If you do an internet search for that address you will still find some sites that link to that very defunct URL. As far as I knew at the time my site was the only one of it's kind. Later I found out that Alfabette Zoope, and perhaps one other, co-existed with me.
I quickly added the core English names, but only made infrequent updates after that. Sometimes it would be 6 months before I did any work on it. The site was getting about 60 visitors per day, which I was pretty impressed with - this was before the big internet explosion. During this time I added some of the supporting pages such as the links page, intro, and references. I also made such great innovations as using links to connect names to other names and adding gender information.
You might be surprised to learn that during the first 3 years of my site's existence I did not own a single name book (I was a poor student). I did all of my "research" (ie writing definitions into a notebook) at the school's reference library. Several notebooks were filled with names and definitions.
In mid-1998 I finished university and had to move my site. I settled on the local ISP Pacificcoast.net. The address was www.pacificcoast.net/~muck/etym.html, and once again you can find several sites that still use this link. It was sometime during the year and a half that I was with PacCoast that I added the simple search function, which was programmed in PERL, and created most of the other supporting pages. I had broadened the focus of the site to include names from other cultures and the name files were starting to get large and unmanagable. I was doing all of my HTML coding by hand and the files were rife with broken links, duplicate names, misspellings, misalphabetizations, and other technical errors. To solve this I wrote a utility program using 4D that parsed the files and checked for any errors. This utility program has evolved significantly to the point where I enter names (and popularities and namesakes) into it and it generates all of the HTML for me.
I think it was midway through 1999 when I added the message board and got rid of the guestbook (any longtime uses who remember more clearly?) and added advanced searching features, which at the time were more usefull to myself than anyone else. During 1999 hits increased dramatically. This was also the time I first started advertising. When server fees are taken into account the money generated from advertisements barely allows it to break even.
At the end of 1999 I decided to get a domain name and was able to get behindthename.com. I decided to rename the site to match the domain name, and the redesigned site (though it looked a lot different than it does now) was launched at the start of 2000. The rest of the history is recorded on the What's New page.
One other story that none of you know about: in late 2000 I almost shut the site down completely. PacCoast decided to start billing for excess bandwidth and I received a bill for $1300 for the month of October alone! (long story, but I never did pay the bill). They gave me a reprieve for a few months, but I needed find a new ISP. No one seemed suitable and I considered pulling the plug until I came across Kansas-based Communitech.net. I switched to them in April and have been very happy there.
Over the past year traffic to the site has held steady, not increasing or decreasing notably. The busiest month ever was May, and since that time things have been quieter, exactly like they were last summer, probably because a lot of visitors connect while at school. At this point the site is getting about 2.5 million hits per month (remember hits include any requests made to the server, including images) and about 120,000 unique visitors per month. Less than 2% of those visitors make it through to the message board, which is slightly less popular than twins.html and slightly more popular than v.html.