Robert Starkweather started working on the internet in the 1990s, at a newspaper in Houston, Texas. In those days, the only browser was Netscape, everything was hand-coded HTML, and the idea of database-driven websites wasn’t even a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye.
Starkweather came to Cambodia in February 1998, a time when the online business environment was non-existent. He worked at the Phnom Penh Post, the Cambodia Daily and founded K4 Media, one of the premier web design companies in the country.
“In the early days, there was no web. The best you could get was at a place called KIDS, Bill Herod’s old school email café where you could get online for $6 an hour,” said the 49-year-old Starkweather.
“Even as late as 2010, most Cambodian people I talked to had never even heard of the internet.”
How the Texas native ended up as one of Hanuman’s Senior Developers has as much to do with the popularity and usefulness of WordPress, the website-building platform, as it does Starkweather’s mastery of it.
In case you missed it: As of last year, WordPress powered more than 60 million websites and is also one of the most popular content management systems in the technoverse. It powers big and small web sites across the kingdom, including nearly all Cambodian government websites as well as popular retail outliers and, of course, Hanuman’s portfolio of exciting web ventures.
“At some point, around 2006 or so, the idea of a content-management system was starting to catch on among Cambodian businesses and NGOs that were thinking about going online. No one actually knew what a CMS was, they just all knew they needed one,” Starkweather said.
“At the time, there were three big players: Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. Drupal was the top dog, with an overwhelming market share. Joomla was second and WordPress, the upstart at that point, was barely in the game.”
He continued: “Drupal and Joomla were both wildly complex. Their dashboards looked like the space shuttle and you needed a computer science degree to drive them. There was no way your average marketing manager or small business owner was going to deal with that.
“WordPress, by contrast, was built from the very beginning to be user-friendly. The interface was simple and easy to understand. That simplicity made it easy for even novice computer users to understand.”
Websites from the early internet days now look quaint and antique. Even websites from five years ago are becoming tired and overused, leaving developers scrambling for new designs to engage consumers.
For Starkweather, the future is WordPress.
“WordPress is here to stay. It powers sites like The New York Times and BBC America, PlayStation, Flickr, Skype and Walt Disney, as well as e-commerce giants like Etsy and Marks & Spencer,” he said.
“It rules the web for a reason. It’s the cornerstone of Hanuman’s internet presence and powers all of our websites. It’s head and shoulders better than anything else out there.”