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Jul 18, 2017 2:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Website Is Up For Sale

Jul 18, 2017 2:44 PM

First-time visitors to East Hampton might want to know the best places to go, including hotels, beaches, and local events. A printed brochure would be a good option—but a more convenient one might be to look online at a site called, simply, easthampton.com.

The site might not be there for long, however, depending on who’s willing to come up with the cash—the owner’s thinking a ballpark figure of $10,000 to buy the domain name.

Renee Palmer of East Hampton, who wants to sell the domain name, has been personally managing and updating the site since she first registered it in 1994. Sitting in her home on a rainy Friday earlier this month, she explained that she has been hoping to sell the name for two years and now has plans to move outside of the country with her husband, Sheldon, and enjoy retirement without worrying about having to update the site.

“It has enormous potential and it’s something that would benefit the town,” Ms. Palmer said. “I offered it for free and offered to help develop the site once it’s sold. But I didn’t think I could give it the content that it really can be filled with.”

After learning the computer programming language called Fortran while studying in France in the 1970s, Ms. Palmer kept the knowledge in the back of her mind as she spent 25 years working in the fashion industry. In 1992, she stepped away from that industry to take care of her dying father and decided not to go back.

It so happened that 1992 was a year when the internet was starting to reach wider attention with the establishment of the World Wide Web the year before.

“It piqued my interest because it was so different,” Ms. Palmer said. “I started buying books on HTML, and that’s how I got into it.”

She said the earliest iteration of easthampton.com came from a reliable source: whitehouse.gov. Using the early web browser Netscape, Ms. Palmer said, she was able to see the source code of the White House’s website, then copy and paste it onto her computer notepad page and save it as an HTML file, which created the standard base for a web page.

She became so well-versed in building and editing web pages that she actually contacted the web master at the White House and suggested changing the images of then-President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton from GIFs to JPEGs. Ms. Palmer explained that during that era of digital imagery, a GIF image had less capacity to display different colors in an image than a JPEG did. The result? “Mrs. Clinton looked like she had some kind of skin disease,” she said.

From there, she learned more about how to use the HTML format to build her own source code for easthampton.com and add more features to the site. In addition, she said, she started registering other domain names for other places, including boston.com, dallas.com and newyork.com, with the intent to turn these sites into information outlets for each city—a relatively new idea at the time.

Her plan hit a roadblock in 1995, when she discovered the existence of GeoCities, another early internet site where web pages with information about major U.S. cities were posted. While she gave away the domain names for the cities, she held on to East Hampton over the years, since the first version of the site was merely two pages: a list of restaurants and a list of hotels in the area.

“It was basically for me so that when friends of mine wanted to come to East Hampton, I could tell them where they should go to or what hotel they could stay at,” she said. “I did not know that other people would have access to it, or that they would even know about it. I think the only entities that had websites at the time were universities and government entities.”

Ms. Palmer said that, for the first 10 years, she added elements and managed the site by herself before bringing in a partner, Veronica Hidalgo-Ntovas, who is currently based in Ecuador. Today, the website has pages on how to travel to East Hampton, the history of the town, a calendar of upcoming events, and a directory for everything from hotels and restaurants to churches and synagogues.

Ms. Palmer also has added interactive elements, one being virtual tours of historical locations in East Hampton, including the Mulford Farm and Clinton Academy in the village. Another hands-on function is the ability to create a custom-made postcard with the user’s choice of an iconic image from East Hampton to put on the front, ranging from the Hook Windmill to Main Beach.

Even with all of this additional content, Ms. Palmer said that she always thought someone else could bring in more.

“If a real company owned it, like the town or the chamber of commerce or a newspaper, they would do the right thing, because they have the staff and all of that,” she said. “I always felt guilty that I don’t have the time or the energy to give it what it should have.”

Ms. Palmer said she is not sure if she’ll make follow-up offers to sell the site to local groups or government. She added that one thing that might help the site gain more visitors when it’s sold is making a site for news, specifically “scandalous news,” as she called it.

“The content that’s on the site now seems to be very important to the people who come, but I think that because of the way the world works, like Page Six, adding that element to it would make it like no other site,” she said. “The name is like real estate: It’s about location, location, location.”

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