On a freezing night in June 2002, a web developer sat at an outside table at the Queens hotel in Mount Lawley, wondering if anyone would show up at the social gathering of web industry workers he’d organised.
Two years later, after two very successful paid events, alliances with some very heavy-hitting industry organizations and companies, an online forum with over 300 participants and a mailing list of 600, Port 80 is an industry force to be taken seriously.
Designed by founder Miles Burke as ‘an establishment for communication between developers and designers’, Port 80 aims to bring people from across the web development industry together. ‘One of the key goals was to allow geeky and creative types to mingle and learn a bit about each other’s trade.’ Burke says.
But in market as small as Perth, already crowded with associations like the West Australian Internet Association, AGDA and the PADC, do, we really need another professional forum?
Kay Smoljak is a senior developer with Internet solutions outfit Perthweb, and to her, Port 80 simply fills a gap nobody else has addressed.
‘Not being a graphic designer, AGDA doesn’t appeal to me,’ she says. ‘As for WAIA, I’ve always thought it was more for ISPs and the infrastructure & regulatory aspects of the industry. Port 80 is for web designers and developers in the trenches — dealing with clients and deadlines, browsers and those kinds of issues.’
One of Port 80’s most successful activities have been the online forums, a lively virtual round-table of everything from tips on source code and browsers to design critique and general opinion or invective about practices or personalities in the web world.
Port 80 has also hosted and participated in popular speaking events — including bringing the internationally renowned Design is Kinky crew (responsible for the phenomenally successful Semi-Permanent events in Sydney) to Perth for a sell-out event in conjunction with AGDA.
The next logical step — according to both the founder and regulars — is to formalise. Currently in the process of incorporating, Port 80 will now be a not-for-profit with a steering committee, budget and formal industry alliances it couldn’t capitalise on before.
‘It’s the shareware model,’ founder Burke says to explain the evolution. ‘If you feel you’re getting benefit out of Port 80 you should give back by becoming a member, which allows people to show they’re serious about supporting their industry.
‘I’ve also had a number of hardware and software vendors speak to me over the last year or two saying they want to get as involved as they can with the group, so the support’s there. But governments and other bodies don’t give grants to Port 80 which happens to be Miles Burke, whereas they’re much more likely to fund projects if we’re a proper not for profit association.’
With the web industry in constant flux but showing no signs of slowing down, there seems no way for Port 80 to go but up.