Then and Now: A Look Back at Reptiles on the Internet – April 2013

By Scott Wesley

In the winter of 1996, I was sitting in my college apartment at Chico State University playing “fantasy hockey” on America Online. While in this league one of the really nerdy things we decided to do was set up a website for our own teams. So – I started to research HTML and how things worked. I wanted a “counter” for traffic stats, a link for email with a cool animated graphic, pictures, team logo, etc.  I quickly figured out how to lay out a basic website, and upload it via Netscape.

Meanwhile down in LA – my brother had started a reptile business out of his garage (literally). He was breeding leopard geckos and selling supplies via a printed mail catalog. He called his business “LLLReptile & Supply“.  I had been selling reptiles at my school previously through my brother who was at that time working for a reptile wholesaler – so I was sort of familiar with what he was doing. One night, I took that knowledge and his product catalog and sat down at my computer to create a website for his business. The website address washttp://members.aol.com/L3Reptile/pricelist.html .  I emailed him a link, and asked him what he thought of doing a website?  With our hard work and dedication – the website took off and the rest is history for us.

This was how the LLLReptile website looked 1 year after creation.

When I created the LLLReptile website – there was very little in the way of competition. There were a few places to run classifieds online (ReptilesOnline.com and The Herp Mall were a few that come to mind). These pre-dated Kingsnake.com – which soon followed. Other companies online at that time were Hartford Reptile Breeding Center (pythons.com) and Big Apple Herp.

There were lots of “breeders” online – most of the names I forget (some are still around like Ron Tremper at LeopardGecko.com and BHB). Google didn’t even exist yet!  16 years ago doesn’t seem that long – but in the world of the internet – it is a lifetime.

At the end of 1997 – we decided to really upgrade and buy the domain name LLLReptile.com.  This was a BIG step for us and expensive at the time as well (no .99 cent godaddy names back then).

The late 90’s were really the explosion for reptile websites. Our business grew rapidly – as we had created something that had not existed prior; an all-in-one reptile website for supplies, live reptilesand feeders. Your “one stop herp shop”!

In the late 90’s, Jeff Barringer had taken Kingsnake.com to a new level as well. This was now the premier place to advertise anywhere on the net for the reptile world. His website was the “one stop” for classifieds, discussion forums, law updates via NRAAC and much more.

At one time – Kingsnake.com was the world’s LARGEST “pet” website that existed (and still is the largest reptile website by far today). The big “pet” companies really took a LONG time to find their place on the internet (set aside Pets.com and their 2 million dollar superbowl commercial. #miserablefail).

The reptile world was way ahead of the curve here.  Kingsnake.com literally allowed almost anyone working from home to start up a reptile business and immediately reach a vast customer base. I know for a fact that this website is why MANY reptile companies exist today!

Around the turn of the century we started to see a negative turn for the internet world.  Keyboard warriors found outlets for their disdain of individuals, breeders and companies on several websites that allowed anyone to say anything with literally no facts to back them up. It was also filled with rubberneckers there to watch the gossip and hate. While there is certainly a “need” for this in certain aspects (as there are certainly “bad” people out there) – the lack of monitoring the child-like posts filled with hate and personal attacks was sad and disturbing. Fortunately we have seen the evolution through the last decade through places like Yelp, the BBB and other legitimate feedback websites run in a much more professional manner. While the negativity still goes on to this day – it has certainly seen a draw down from it’s original form. People seem to have realized that these forums are typically filled up with false or unfounded statements posted mostly by children (or adults acting like children).

Around 2005 – We saw the biggest change online for the reptile world since its inception. Social media had turned from a place where kids talked about their music and interests on MySpace to something entirely different. Facebook took over the internet like a wildfire.  It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like to be a 13 year old kid who was totally intoreptiles, who could then make “friends” with others who held the same interests online.  Being able to talk about your interests together, share pictures, and learn so many new things all in one location is pretty cool.  There is a good reason why facebook has and will remain untouchable in this aspect (see google + about that). Even through the endless ads that are now in your newsfeed – it is still the place hundreds of millions go to daily. Now – you can follow the breeders and companies you like, and get direct feedback and answers from most of them (we answer questions on our facebook page every single day at LLL). Facebook allows a much more intimate relationship between a business or breeder and the consumer along with allowing like-minded reptile people to become “friends” as well. Pretty awesome stuff!

Over the last few years – we have seen some really cool new websites in the reptile world.USARK.org comes to mind. The internet (and facebook) makes it so much easier to organize nowadays and USARK is a perfect example this. We can now all see reptile news, upcoming votes on laws in our area or federal, and organize to help protect the reptile community. If you have not checked it out – I highly recommend you do asap!

Another cool new website is The Reptile Report.  The idea behind this website is pretty neat (kind of like reddit). It takes almost all of the really cool reptile discussion forums online, and organizes the most popular discussions all on one website. So if you are a ChameleonForums.com or Ball-Pythons.net fan but don’t have the time that day to look through all the new topics – you can quickly browse some highlighted discussions right here!

Nowadays you can get everything you need for your reptile right on the web. Any supply you can think of, all sorts of feeders, live reptiles shipped right to your door, find out when the next reptile show in your area will be, watch videos instantly of any reptile you can think of, and even start your own business easily with the help of websites like Kingsnake.com and ShipYourReptiles.com to name a few. The evolution of the internet has just begun. We have gone through such huge changes over the last 15+ years online – I can’t imagine what the next 15 will bring!

10 Questions with Jeff Barringer

10 Questions with Jeff Barringer

By Scott Wesley

Jeff Barringer is the owner and founder of Kingsnake.com / OnlineHobbyist.com and has single handedly changed the way the reptile industry does business since starting out in 1997. Kingsnake.com is the #1 reptilerelated website in the US – by far.

1.    If you had a choice, what would you be doing full time instead of Kingsnake.com ?

I would be working with the Department of Defense new “Cyber-command” to help stop online attacks on the nations infrastructure.  Or I would be the water ski stunt coordinator for the Wonder Lake Show Ski Team. Both have their upsides and my unique skill set would allow for either.

2.    You are very involved in the music industry in Austin. Is there anyone or any specific band you have met that made you “star struck” or left a lasting impression on you seeing them live or meeting them in person?

Well my friendship with Kerry King of Slayer came about because of our reptile interests, and that’s probably been the one that has impacted me most, recently, but I have been going to shows since I was 15 and even then I found a way. I would say The Ramones left me star struck first as I conned my way back stage when I was 17 and got to spend the night hanging out in their dressing room interviewing the band before their show in 1979. It pretty much set my path.

3.    What is your favorite reptile show to attend in the country and why?

Wooo. That’s a tough one. And for tough ones I always run home to family. And that means the annual East Texas Herp Society Symposium in Houston, September 29-30 .  Its where the Alterna Page, kingsnake.com and NRAAC all got their start. And it’s also where NRAAC will be hosting the Reptile& Amphibian Law Symposium & Workshop this year.

4.    If you could pick somewhere else to live besides Austin – where would it be and why?

Sanderson Texas, because it is the gateway to the Tran-Pecos and the Big Bend and I could find reptiles, arrowheads, gemstones, and dinosaur bone all in my front yard. And every once in a while really cool Air Force jets come rat racing through the hills and mountains.

5.    What kind of reptile got you hooked – grey banded kingsnakes or something else?

When I was 9 it was Texas Horned Toads
When I was an adult a Texas Alligator Lizard got me hooked
The Mexican Milk Snake is my favorite snake and what got me hooked on field work.

6. The reptile industry has changed so much since the late 90’s – what do you see as the biggest change overall since you started besides the internet?

The biggest change is the one that I see now, with the industry that started out somewhat localized, that expanded in the 90’s and 2000’s to national markets due to the ready availability of overnight shipping and marketing channels such as the internet, now retracting back to a more localized, and smaller, marketplace, similar to the way it was in the early 90s. I think this is due primarily both to the perception of and the actuality of more government regulation at the state and federal levels.

7. What is your favorite current band or singer right now?

Right now it’s the Silversun Pickups – sounds like being attacked by a swarm of bees with guitars. Plus their drummer’s style reminds me of Animal on Sesame Street

8. Why, in your opinion, have so many reptile businesses taken advantage of online advertising, and yet so many still chose to ignore its massive benefits (especially major manufacturers) ?

I think that a lot of businesses are still under the impression that to effectively advertise on the internet, you actually have to sell your products, and ship your products online. You don’t.

The internet allows all businesses to participate. Whether it’s building a brand, introducing a product or launching a new pet store down the street the internet is still the cheapest, and quickest way to get any message out, commercial or otherwise.

9.    A bit morbid, but if you could choose – how would you like to die?

Unexplained tuba accident

10.  What is the one thing you would like to see change in the reptile community?

I would like to see more people get directly involved with working with regulators and legislators. We can’t depend on any one person or one organization to resolve the issues our community is facing. Emails, phone calls, faxes, letters, all those are great tools but we should be using them to open doors, rather than shut them. Get to know who is responsible for the laws in your community and actually engage them in person.  That is what is going to make the difference in the end.