The Evolution of CaRP Evolution

In the Beginning...

In the beginning, long before I'd even considered turning CaRP into a commercial product, I had a website, a niche singles site, that wasn't sticky enough. Members would join, visit a few times during the following week, and then leave, never to be seen again.

While brainstorming ideas for how to entice people back more often, I thought of adding a news sidebar relevant to the members of the niche. But I didn't want to have to manually search for news and update the sidebar all the time. That was when I discovered RSS feeds.

Now I had a source for news (at least if I could find a relevant feed -- there were a few, though honestly, the quality was pretty poor at the time). But I still needed a way to get it onto my site.

The RSS parsers that were available at the time were...less than impressive. To make a long story short, I decided to write my own. Since my site was written in PHP, that's the language I used.

In October of 2002, I found a simple tutorial on parsing RSS, and using the sample code as a starting point, started by adding the one critical feature it was missing: local caching of the RSS feed. (Without caching, the feed had to be retrieved every time a visitor came to my page, which wasted bandwidth and slowed down my site -- particularly if the feed was slow-loading).

At the time, I didn't even give my script a name -- it was just "rssparser.php". I decided to give it away on one of my other websites to bring in more traffic.

It didn't take long for me to start receiving bug reports and feature requests. So I started adding features -- some requested by others, and many that I thought of. I also decided it needed a name, so I named it "CaRP", short for "Caching RSS Parser".

Over the next 10 months, I released 19 revisions, taking it up to version 2.7.5, all of which were free.

From Freebie to Commercial Product

By August of 2003, I was getting quite a few requests for installation assisitance. The singles site wasn't pulling in much money (it's limped along like that all these years), so I couldn't afford to spend the time for free. So it occurred to me to start doing paid installations.

During the same month, I got a bunch of new ideas for features, and realized that I had a viable commercial product on my hands. In September, I split CaRP into a "free" and a "full" version, which was sold for something like $5 - $7, and bumped the version number to 3.0 (I created a new, better organized configuration system at the same time).

And Then There Were 3 (Versions)

By November, I'd released 9 revisions of version 3. Then I got the idea of adding new features that wouldn't be used as commonly as plugins, rather than bloating the core product. I split the commercial version in two, one without plugin support ("Koi" -- the Japanese word for carp), and one with plugins named "Evolution" (since the plugins enabled it to evolve).

The initial CaRP Evolution release had only one plugin -- access keys (which added shortcut keys to the items links). Between November 2003 and April 2006, 6 more plugins were added.

By June 2007, 19 revisions of version 3 had been released. About that time, I stopped selling CaRP Koi. CaRP Evolution was by far the better seller, the better product, and having two versions appeared to just complicate the purchase decision unnecessarily.

Version 4 and the Plugin Explosion

Early in 2008, I started working on a revision of CaRP Evolution that would support Atom feeds. (Earlier versions had relied on another of my products, Grouper Evolution, to convert Atom feeds to RSS for them). At the same time, I started getting a lot of new ideas for plugins. It was time to bump the version number to 4.0.

Version 4 was released on March 4 with 2 new plugins. By December, 9 more plugins had been added, bringing the total from 8 in version 3 all the way to 19.

The Future...

In January, 2009, I decided CaRP needed a more descriptive name, so at the suggestion of one of my users, I held a contest to pick a new name.

The initial winner was "Web Content Pipeline", but the reaction from British users to the acronym "WCP" or "WC Pipeline" prompted me to rethink the choice. I haven't yet released the next version under the new name, but when I do, you'll find out what name I've decided to go with! (It's similar, but without the "water closet" connection).

(The feed on the right is, naturally, displayed by CaRP Evolution.)

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