Now that this site connemara.net has been successfully redeveloped by Noel Mannion, I thought I’d write about what our plans are on connemara.net, and what’s going on with the old site, some of which is still available at connemara.com. If you’d like to read about the site’s glory days from the 90’s, check out An Ancient History of Connemara.net. Or take a trip back in time in the Wayback Machine.

First of all: what’s with the two addresses – connemara.net and connemara.com? Aren’t they supposed to be the same thing? For the past 15 years or so they have been. If someone browsed to connemara.com it was taken to mean connemara.net, and they were redirected to the site you’re on now. Only it didn’t look like this then. It looked pretty pedestrian, because I’ve never been interested in fancy web design. When Google came along in the late 90’s and quickly became the biggest search engine using a white background and unstyled, blue underlined links, it made my day.

But now they’re separate sites simply because connemara.net needed a redesign – that was the address that people used, and continue to use. Connemara.com is a place to keep old content, and try new stuff before putting it on the main site. Looks apart, the biggest problem with connemara.net was just that it had fallen slowly into disrepair as a consequence of my having emigrated from Connemara to Australia in Nov. ’03. A trip I remember well, as it happens, since Tina and I flew accompanied by the late, great Bridie Mannion of Errislannan.

I tried to keep things going over the years, but found I just didn’t have the time, and in any case how could I keep a portal site about Connemara going from the other side of the world? That didn’t make sense. I ended up using it more as a sandbox: somewhere to try out web development ideas, stick them online, and see if they worked. One of the more interesting directions the site took was to promote videos about Connemara on YouTube, which soon got out of hand as all the related videos for each movie were also loaded on the page for each video that was being shown, and so on down the rabbit hole, world without end, a story which deserves to be told separately.

Still, for all my experimentation with the site, I felt bad about the fact that it was still being used by people to find out what was going on in the west since it still ranked well in Google for Connemara. In early 2011 I was contacted by a businessman in Connemara who was putting together a marketing initiative to promote “Brand Connemara”. He felt that the domain name connemara.net would suit the proposed web presence of this broad spectrum of local tourist and commerical groups. For a couple of reasons I wasn’t convinced my services were required here. For a start the project being suggested was a natural fit for the www.connemara.ie domain name, presumably preserved for any such broadly representative effort, if ever there was one.

Secondly, keyword domain names are not at all necessary to build an online brand: think of twitter, amazon, yahoo, google, ebay, etc. In May 1997, shortly after I bought the name connemara.com, Malachy Bodhrán told me he’d been contacted by an American woman disappointed that that top-level domain name wasn’t available any longer for her American Bearded Collie (or “Beardie”) project. It meant something to me to be able to put a portal-type site about Connemara with a decent web address, using a top-level domain (tld) like connemara.net or connemara.com. Before YouTube (pre-2004) I even had videos on connemara.tv. But nowadays I don’t think those domain names matter so much any more. The linguistic possibilities, should you want to promote an area, are endless: there’s oughterardtourism.com, The Connemara Loop, www.galwaytourism.ie, and anyway, there are plenty of new or relatively unused tlds now like .eu, .name, etc.

So what with that particular reawakening of interest in the site and the usual chatting to Noel about plans for local sites in general, I woke up to the need to get the site ship-shape again. I put it to Noel – would he be interested in working on the site, helping to redevelop it while maybe getting a place to lay down some “Whats On” content? To my immense relief, he was up for it, and did a whole site redesign with new content, new look and feel, new everything. There’s nothing from the old site on the new one. Except the address.

So what’s the plan from now on? Well, it’s a cliché; to say that social media integration is the future, so let’s get that out of the way. I’m a huge fan of Google Plus so I’ll be working on integrating the site with the Connemara.net Google+ page. Although I can’t stand it, a lot of people seem to like Facebook, so we may end up using their commenting system to add to our articles and events pages. And expect more Flickr photos. Video interviews are a distinct possibility too. And maps – loads of maps.

The site needs more cowbell, and we’re on it.

Ralph Lavelle