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Type of site
|Social network service|
|Registration||Required for most services|
|Created by||Dan Pelson
|727,730 (April 2014[update])|
Bolt was a social networking and video website active from 1996 to 2007 before reopening in April 2008. It was shut down for a period of one year due to copyright violations leading to bankruptcy. It was acquired by new owners on January 4, 2008 and operated successfully for several months before announcing plans to go offline in October 2008.
In 1996 Bolt.com was started as a teen community, by a team including Dan Pelson, Lee Morgenroth, David Cancel and Jane Mount as part of Concrete Media. In many ways Bolt.com was ahead of its time. It was among the first social networking sites to appear on the Internet. It offered a wide range of unique services including a daily horoscope, chat rooms, message boards, tagbooks (a knowledge market feature), photo albums, internet radio, browser games, blogs, e-cards, an instant messenger service, a clubs feature (giving people with similar interests a common message board), and badges (a system of awards for user profiles). An e-mail service was hosted, but it was discontinued due to email companies such as Yahoo and Google providing between 1 and nearly 3 gigabytes of email storage for free, rendering Bolt's email service obsolete. This was done without notifying its email subrscribers. Also bolt was one of the first sites to give its members their own web page. As the site aged it relied more on corporate sponsorships. In 2002 the badges slowly started leaning towards company sponsored badges, which led to Bolt becoming more commercial with an increase of ads into the users' activities. Some notable ones included the Verizon Wireless, Gillette, and Sony badges.
Bolt was originally marketed towards teenagers to create content, meet people, and play games in a safe, no pressure, and age-appropriate environment. However, as members aged and stayed with the site, more and more members were college students and/or between 18-24. These members tended to be more interested in current events, religion, and politics, and kept the message boards active with lively heated debate. Many members had known each other for several years and have formed close bonds with their fellow "regs." When Boltfolio, soon to become the new Bolt.com was introduced, members were at first very willing to aid Bolt Media in improving the site. Tensions soon flared between Bolt Media and the supporters of the classic Bolt system as Bolt Media slowly started to turn their full attention to the new Bolt.com. Very few members were willing to make the switch, and after the demise of Bolt2, few stayed on to post on the new Bolt website.
In 2004, bolt.com revamped its site during the summer and officially unveiled itself July 15, 2004. Renovations to the site were completed on September 14, 2004 when the clubs were re-opened. Some of the notable changes include:
- The removal of HTML customization on the main club page.
- The removal of HTML in the club news, a popular feature that may have contributed to the fall in popularity of Bolt. Bolt also became a popular site for NSFW interaction, pushing their original audience farther away.
Bolt.com's second iteration was originally known as Boltfolio, a Bolt Media property launched in late 2005. Touted by itself as the leader of the "cult of creativity", Boltfolio intended to provide a one-stop shop for creative users to upload their own photos, videos, and music, as well as write blogs or record directly from a webcam. The original aim was to provide a simple set of tools that would attract users of like-minded creative sites such as DeviantArt, YouTube, and Flickr.
In December 2005 Bolt Media finalized a deal to purchase InterMedia Inc., a small company focused on a video-sharing site, Yashi. Yashi and Boltfolio were integrated into one site, and in March 2006 Bolt Media opted to focus the company on this new property. Thus Boltfolio became Bolt.com, bumping the existing Bolt.com site to the URL Bolt2.com on March 6. As 2006 wore on, creative Bolt members were featured less and less on the site, taking a back seat to videos produced by Bolt staff, popular music videos, and viral videos that also were appearing on competing video sites.
On October 17, 2006, one week after announcing a revenue-sharing deal with YouTube, Universal Music filed suit against Bolt Media and another video site, Grouper. Universal contended that both sites allowed and promoted their users to swap unlicensed music videos. Several weeks later, Bolt removed the music section from their site, without any explanation.
In February 2007, Bolt Media announced that it would be selling itself to GoFish, another online video company, for $30 million. According to Aaron Cohen, Bolt's CEO, Bolt would once again change its focus from uploaded content to content creation; saying that the former was no longer "interesting business". Cohen and Bolt president Jay Gould are also involved in a new project, called WikiYou, which has received seed funding from First Round Capital and Mayfield Fund.
On March 30, 2007, it was announced that Bolt2.com would shut down on April 6, 2007, ending more than 10 years of operations. This letter posted on the site to members of the community:
"Well, the time had come. We have decided that it is time to officially say good-bye to Bolt2. In the past few years Bolt Media has explored new ideas, and grown in a different direction. As we continue to move in this direction it has become necessary that we need to make some difficult choices.
One of which is the closure of Bolt2. Although we value our loyal members, we are clearly moving in a new direction and need to focus our energies there. We recognize that many of you have been on the site for up to 10 years, and would like to thank you for your support and for allowing us to be a part of your lives. We hope you are able to take the time to reflect on the people who you may have met through Bolt2 and maintain these friendships after the site is down.
Much like pulling off a band-aid, the closure will be short and hopefully not too painful. The site will officially close on Friday, April 6th at noon (eastern standard time)."Again, we would like to express our gratitude for your continued support of Bolt2. You have been a valuable part of our lives, and we hope to see you on Bolt in the future.
Unable to withstand a lawsuit from copyright holders, Bolt.com filed for bankruptcy, and the site was shut down August 14, 2007.
On August 1, 2008, Bolt.com began integrating aspects of the old Bolt2.com site. Tagbooks, a popular way to ask questions and get answers from the broader community, were relaunched on the site.
On September 30, 2008, Bolt.com was announced to be shutting down once again. It was announced that this was due to the website's resurrection "not working out as they'd hoped".
On October 6, 2008, the site was shut down.
Sometime in December a notice was put up at the bottom of Bolt.com's old domain announcing the return of Bolt.com social network. The site was later re-opened, hosted by Ning. By July 2011, the site was once again shut down, until bolt3 popped up.
Upgrades and Promotions
- Bolt2.com was to be called classicbolt.com
- The Badge Race Club featured Bolt members in reality series based eliminations for collecting badges.
- A club was created to promote a FOX show Wonderfalls in February 2004. A badge was given to members who joined to help spread the word of the show to increase viewership and the show's ratings. The show was canceled in early April and the club was quickly deleted.
- Bolt Radio had "radio stations" and members who submitted songs that they wanted to hear on Bolt Radio received the bolt DJ badge.
- On April 29, 2008, Bolt decided to use the classic Bolt logo again.
- Bolt3.com is now the classicbolt.com
The American Idol Effect
In 2003 Bolt was the official message board for Fox's American Idol during the second season. This created a swarm of new members signing up to talk only about American Idol. This did not sit well with the veterans, as the quality of discussion on the site greatly dwindled. FOX later created and maintained their own message boards for the third season, but cross promotion still continued with AI sponsored quizzes, avatars, and badges. By the fourth season, the cross promotion was gone, but the message boards were still created and maintained. There were no message boards created for the fifth season of American Idol.
- Bolt created a website for 7-up called Gulpit.com in November 25, 2002 that featured bottle caps instead of badges. It was poorly maintained and only visited when a bottle cap was offered that also featured a badge. After 3 bottle caps the site has never updated again. It has since been taken down as of March 4, 2005.
- Angry Bolt users created a site called Boltsucks.com in response to the message board being taken down during the revamp in 2004. During this time, they created their own badges, including a very vulgar badge for telling off a bolt staff member. After the Bolt message board came back online, participation at Boltsucks.com dwindled and the site eventually failed.
This site has also been taken down.
- "Bolt.com Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
- Chaffin, Joshua. "Rights Success for Universal as Bolt Settles". ft.com. Retrieved 2012-07-30.
- Bolt.com "Bolt is Shutting Down" Retrieved September 30, 2008
- "NBC Battles, and Joins With, Video Web Sites", The Wall Street Journal
- "Bolt.com Selling to GoFish for $30M", NewTeeVee.com
- "Bolt.com RIP: Files For Bankruptcy", Mashable.com
- Digital Music News GoFish report
- "GoFish Terminates Plan to Acquire Bolt Media", Prweb.com, August 2, 2007