Long before the days of Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter and Tinder there came Loquax. Twenty very long years ago, myself and Kirsty, sat down and cobbled together our first version of the website. As today is our anniversary we’ve been looking back at old versions of the site courtesy of Wayback.org. Not only do they bring back bad memories of web design, they also offer an insight into online comping when it was starting to emerge.
A £700 DVD Player
Below is a Pick of the Prizes page from early 1999. The logo at the top of the site was “Win Win Win Competitions” as we were reluctant to call the site “Loquax”. At that time you were lucky if there were more than a handful of new comps each day. However, back then the prizes always seemed quite big. For example HMV were giving away a DVD Player worth £700! There were also only a handful of daily entry competitions including Challenge TV and Jamba. Jamba was one of the first game sites and even had their own lottery (iirc).
A bit further into 1999 and we’d revamped the Pick Of The Prizes page again. Below shows our blue phase! Although not shown, we’d also finally added a Loquax logo at the top of the site. Hooray for free 3D graphic software that you got from computer magazines! Anyway, by now the daily entry list had increased in just a few months and The BBC had launched a number of sites such as Top Of The Pops and Radio Times, all with their own regular competitions.
At this point we didn’t have a forum but we did offer users the chance to get their own “winner” email address. This eventually became “prizewinner” and that eventually ended up in the “not quite a good idea” bucket. One site worth a mention here is Uproar. They used to run mini trivia quizzes each week and they were embedded and featured on Loquax. Uproar were one of our first advertisers and the income generated pretty much kept us afloat at this time.
So what about the prizes on offer back then? Well MP3 Players were pretty exciting gadgets and Jungle, an Amazon wannabe, was dishing out £10million of prizes. We doubt that would happen these days. Another site of note was “Free Money“. This site gave away £1000 daily. In a way it was the Free Postcode Lottery of it’s day. Mind there was no postcodes, no lottery and no advertising revenue so perhaps it’s short life time wasn’t a big surprise.
Win Your Own Island
After the Loquax “blue phase” came the Loquax “orange and blue phase”, colours which are still used on the forum today incidentally. The shot below is circa 2000 when Loquax became a full time project and we finally dumped the “Win Win Win Competitions” image. Hopefully you can see from the image that there are decent prizes on offer including new cars from Mini and Hyundai, 30 holidays from Ybag, £50K from The Street (a fantasy portfolio game), 5 washing machines from Zanussi and “Win your own island” from Free Win.
Free Win was a competition site that offered prizes every hour of the day. To be fair the prizes were pretty naff, but it was a big deal back in the day. The company behind Free Win were also one of a few who over the years have enquired to buy Loquax. I flew out to Copenhagen to meet with them for what must qualify as one of the shortest negotiations in history. It went something like “We want to purchase Loquax”, “How much”, “£xxx,xxx”, “No”. They wouldn’t budge on their number and that was that. Now “£xxx,xxx” might sound like it was too good to be true. The reality was that in those days “£xxx,xxx” actually meant shares in a company which were pretty much worthless. We’d had a higher offer from another suitor a few months before and had we accepted then we’d have ended up with, after tax, about five thousand quid each. The rest of the £xxx,xxx figure was written on piece of paper. Incidentally both companies went bust within a few months of their offers.
Two other sites that jump out from the below screenshot are Tombola and FreeUKLottery. I’m not 100% but I suspect that the Tombola then was not the Tombola of 2018. It may well have been a forerunner with simpler games or even free games. FreeUKLottery doesn’t jog any memories whatsoever – does anyone remember it? Even this small look at Loquax’s history reveals just how much comping has changed over the last 20 years. We’ll take another little trip down memory lane soon, but for now here’s to the last 20 years. As ever, a big thank you to everyone who has contributed and continues to contribute to the site. Who’d have thought we’d have got this far, eh? Happy Birthday Loquax.