In May 1996, I purchased the domain name "deaf.com" from another company. I planned to make this the “cornerstone” of a comprehensive Websitea portal site, in other wordsthe best single source for Deaf information, resources, news, and features.
I had long been excited about the vast potential of mass media to reach people and influence their opinions. What better way to educate and enlighten the international community about Deaf issues, and to enhance their awareness? Television was the first mass visual/electronic medium. Having written, produced, directed, and hosted a pilot magazine-format program that aired on a local ABC affiliate, which received unanimously favorable response, I wanted to have a regular TV series. I was unable to secure the necessary corporate funding to make the series a reality. Instead, I founded an independent media company and started a monthly magazine, DEAF LIFE, as a means of serving the Deaf community. Although I am proud of DEAF LIFE and the impact it has made on the Deaf and Hearing communities, it has had a relatively small circulation, and consequently, its outreach has been limited.
As the Internet gained popularity, and new Websites were going online daily by the hundreds, I was excited about the immense possibilities offered by this medium. A Website has a truly global outreach, and word gets around fast about good sites. Here was an unparalleled opportunity to reach out to the global community: to showcase the achievements of deaf people, to break down negative stereotypes and combat prejudice, to share up-to-date Deaf Community news, and to promote greater understanding about Deaf people, our concerns, history, culture, and languagesonline! I envisioned a portal site that would offer visitors a panoramic variety of interlinked Deaf-oriented sites, attractively designed, easy to use, enjoyable, and above all, usefula site that would benefit the community. A sort of combination Deaf-community TV channel, newspaper, magazine, marketplace, gallery, bulletin board, directory, chatroom, and forum.
Other Deaf-oriented Websites have come and gone. Some have been good, others not so good. I make no claim that DEAF.com is the first Deaf portal site. It isn’t. But I want it to be the very best one ever.
The DEAF.com logo was designed in Summer 1997, and a prototype homepage set up and “beamed” to several Deaf notables for their feedback. They liked the design, and were enthusiastic about the prospect. They also made useful suggestions.
The first DEAF.com site to go online was DeafLife.com, launched in 1997. This was followed by DeafView.com. In late February 1998, DeafChat.com was launched, and quickly became a “hit.” A number of chatters began logging on daily, and a cadre of loyal regulars, “DeafChatters,” was formed. Running jokes, friendships, and romance spiced the brew. Although a chatroom is essentially an entertainment/socializing medium, it has a serious dimension, as when parents of newly-identified deaf children logged on and asked for advice and help. These were people who were bewildered, sometimes distraught, and when they logged on, they were surrounded by Deaf adults who could give them the encouragement and support they needed.
Essentially, though, DeafChat has been a fun site. DeafChat adopts seasonal colors and themesan orange-and-black frame and tagging the chatrooms with appropriately Gothic names like “Tomb Room” and “Gravediggers’ Room” for Halloween. The DeafChat frame becomes red on Valentine’s Day, and green on St. Patrick’s Day.
DeafNotes.com went online in July 1999, and quickly became another popular site, with hundreds of visitors logging on daily to read posts on vital and controversial topics and share their views. There were boards set aside for “just-for-fun” posts, too.
In Summer 1999, the Deaf.com design was revamped again, and several new buttons designed. DummyHoy.com (celebrating the life and career of the legendary deaf major-leaguer), for example, was launched that November.
My core staff includes David D. Long, who focuses on DEAF.com’s technical ad administrative aspects. Linda Levitan, who has worked with me on DEAF LIFE and all of our Websites, is involved with current and upcoming projects. Our graphic designer worked with me to develop DEAF.com's new look, which debuted October 24, 2006.
All of us agree that DEAF.com is an important part of our mission to serve the community. Community service is what this venture is about. We’re not interested in making money off the Internet, but in utilizing it as an effective means to improve public attitudes.
DEAF.com continues to grow and expand its scope and outreach. Our plans include adding new sites and upgrading existing ones, and taking advantage of new Internet technology to make DEAF.com the best, most exciting, and useful site on the Web.
Matthew S. Moore