Happy 21st Birthday, Basenotes!

Basenotes is celebrating its 21st Birthday (well, it was last week, but we was offline!)

To celebrate, we've had a little bit of a facelift! Have a look around and see what's new!

This is Version 10 of Basenotes.

Like The Doctor, Basenotes sometimes regenerates. Each one may look different, but it's still the same old Basenotes underneath! Let's travel back in time and see the online equivalent of our baby photos!

Basenotes Version 1​

21 years is a long time! When I first made Basenotes, there was no Facebook or Netflix. Each page was coded by hand and uploaded one by one to a server.

This screenshot is from a few months after I had launched the site, though it looks pretty similar to how it looked at launch. When the site launched I just concentrated on men's fragrances, as that's what I mainly knew about.


The forums were run on a perl script called Matt's WWWBoard, and as you can see , it was pretty basic!


At the time, all of the fragrance directory was held in a database on my Bondi-Blue iMac, called Claris Works. The pages for the directory were created by essentially copying and pasting the data on to a webpage. If someone sent in a review (you had to send them in by email in the beginning), I would also copy and paste that on to the page.


The notes pyramid was also an image, that I would have to create for each fragrance. Mainly as I wanted to have the triangle behind the notes, and I didn't know how to do that without making the whole thing an image. (Keep an eye on this Burberry Touch page, we'll be showing how it changed throughout the years.)

Shortly after we launched, the crappy forum script we were using became a little unwieldy. All of the discussion was moved to a website called eGroups. EGroups was a mailing list, so as well as being able to post on the eGroups website, you could also email messages in.


EGroups was later acquired by Yahoo!, and renamed Yahoo! Groups.

Click on the green Next Page button to go to Version 2!

(birthday balloon Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels)

Basenotes Version 2 (2002)

After the site had been online a year, it became painstakingly boring to create the fragrance pages individually. After some light googling, I found a web page called flattext.com (now offline, but here's an archive.org snapshot of the site). The site claimed that you could put "virtually any database online in minutes."


The trouble was, it cost $99.

It would make my life easier to have an actual database on the site that people could search. I convinced myself that a lot of hobbies cost money, so this would be fine.

I downloaded the script. It was written in a language called PERL. I'm sure I could work this out. I used to make programs in BASIC for my 8-bit Commodore. How hard could it be?

I bought a bunch of PERL books from Amazon, and got to work on coding what would be Basenotes Version 2.


Okay, looking at the screenshot above, I've just noticed it says "online since 30th August 2000" -- so it turns out I'd missed our 21st Birthday by over a month. I could have sworn it was the end of September 2000!

Due to the new zingy database script, I was able to add a page for every fragrance! Here's how that Burberry Touch page is looking now:


It doesn't look too different from what we have now. There's thumbs up for the reviews, and links to where to buy the fragrance. We no longer offer the ability to search Usenet (ask your granddad) for information about the fragrance though...

One thing I regretted later is spending ages photoshopping the fragrance bottle in front of a green circle. I ditched that shortly after, but you can still find plenty of the old-skool green circle images on the site, where I haven't bothered to update the pics in 21 years!

Although the directory was being run off a database. It wasn't a proper database.

What would happen, is that every now and again, I would export all the information I had about the perfumes from the database on my computer into a perfume list file. I would then upload this file to the website when I wanted to add new perfumes.

This perfume list file was basically like a big Excel spreadsheet with all the perfumes in it. When you did a search for Burberry Touch, it wouldn't go and get it immediately. What it would do, was look at the first row of the database and ask:
"is this Burberry Touch?"
No, it's something by Adidas
"Okay, cool! I'll check out the next line. Is this Burberry Touch?"
No, it's another one by Adidas
"No worries, I'll keep going..."

Until eventually it got to Burberry Touch.

Luckily, being a computer, it was quite quick, and at the time there wasn't a great deal of people on the website. This would bite me on the arse later.

Here's how it looked when you did do a fragrance search:


We still had the discussion board over at Yahoo Groups - but we did have a sales and swap board on the site (the forerunner to the Marketplace we have now on the forums)


The software we used for the "Basenotes Bulletin Board" as it was then known, was called YaBB. It, like the database script, was written in PERL.

I wondered if I could somehow squidge the log-in part of this Bulletin Board, into the main site, so that I didn't have to copy and paste people's reviews when they emailed them in?

And thus began work on Basenotes Version 3

Basenotes Version 3 (2003)

If people could log-in to the site, they could add their own reviews, and maybe keep a list of fragrances they owned.

Now was the time to ditch Yahoo! Groups and bring the discussion to the site itself. This way I could hijack the log-in system from the forum software and use that for my own gain! (a trick we still do to this day!)

So, a new site was coded, but for some reason lost in the depths of time, I wasn't able to transfer the domain name basenotes.com to it. So, I did what anyone with no regard for search engine rankings, would do. I thought Sod it! It can just be Basenotes.net for now, and I'll switch back to .com in a few weeks. (Spoiler: we didn't)

Introducing Basenotes Version 3. Now with the ability to add your own reviews!


Here's that Burberry Touch page, that I like to keep showing you:


And the Forums are now fully on-site. Here is a little look at what people were talking about way back in 2003...


Oh surprise, surprise... Creed

One thing to note, if you look at the top right corner, you can see a tab for Basenotes, and a tab for something called Perfume Review.

What was Perfume Review you ask?

This was Perfume Review:



Basenotes was getting a sister-site for women's perfumes! Let's see how this goes shall, we...

Basenotes Version 4 (2005)

So, let's see what happened to Perfume Review shall we?


Well, you may have guessed that! Also, I don't know what I was thinking with the blue, pink-haired lady, with an oversized head.

Basenotes Version 4 brought a lot of new things. As well as integrating women's fragrances on to the site, I also made an effort to try and write regular news stories. I'd also begun to ask people to write features for the site.


If we look at the Directory pages, we can see that we now have Wardrobes and Private Notes:



And we also introduced the idea of being a Basenotes Supporter (now Basenotes Plus), where members could help me pay for the expenses of the site.


What was the reason for the burst of new features? Well, I suddenly had a bit more time on my hands. I had given up work.

But not because Basenotes was raking in the cash. Faaaaar from it. I had decided to be a stay-at-home-dad for my first born child, who slept rather a lot. (Still does as a teenager), giving me plenty of time to work on this perfume thing.

The site was getting busier though, and those dodgy PERL scripts that were holding up the database and the forum were starting to be outgrown.

Basenotes Version 5 (2006)

Although we had upgraded the forum to the latest version of YaBB, the site wasn't coping too well with it. What the site needed was a proper forum which ran on a proper database.

Enter, vBulletin. Their website claimed:

vBulletin is a powerful, scalable and fully customizable forums package for your web site. It has been written using the Web's quickest-growing scripting language; PHP, and is complemented with a highly efficient and ultra fast back-end database engine built using MySQL.
vBulletin is the ideal community solution for all medium-to-large sites​

In 2006, vBulletin was the forum to have. It was expensive for me ($160), but I'd had a bunch of people buy a Basenotes Supporting membership by then, so I could actually justify the cost.

New forum, means new rewrite.

Now, I'm going to try and avoid getting technical, but the forum was now in a different programming language to the rest of the site. The new forum was coded in PHP, and the website was coded in PERL. Obviously it would make sense for me to learn PHP, so I could integrate the site better with the new forum.

Nope. Let's carry on using two separate systems and kinda fudge them together.

We also got a new logo!


No major differences to the directory pages, though there is now the ability to tag fragrances. (delicio.us had launched by then and tagging was the coolest thing. Along with tag clouds, and people saying Web 2.0)

Ah, Basenotes Community on vBulletin 3.5:


The version of vBulletin we used then is regarded by many as the best version of vBulletin. There are still some sites running on heavily modified versions of it.

Basenotes Version 6 (2007)

Basenotes Version 6 was, until now, my absolute favourite version of Basenotes.

I'm not sure why, I think it was the left-hand navigation that sways me. It was also the first time I'd managed to make the Community properly look like the rest of the site. It felt much more cohesive.




It would have stayed like this for a lot longer, but two things happened:

vBulletin launched version 4 of their forum software, and the tired old database scripts (yep, still the one that read each fragrance line-by-line until it found the right one) were really feeling the strain. You think Basenotes gets slow now? You should have seen it then!

I supposed I'd better start learning to code PHP then I guess...

Basenotes Version 7 (2010)

With a new version of vBulletin out, and the database script getting a bit tired, it was time for me to learn PHP, and work out what the deal was with MySQL databases.

So, I ordered some books on PHP, and basically lived on StackOverflow (a website geeks use to find out how to do anything at all).

I thought I'd start small, and code one small feature in PHP, to get my head round it. Twitter had launched a few years ago, and was starting to become big. What if I replicated Twitter? But instead of people talking about anything, it logged their Scent of the Day.

So, the SOTD feature was the first thing I coded in PHP, and the code remained pretty much unchanged until we moved to this site. This is why the page always took so bloody long to load, as I basically didn't know what I was doing!

I eventually re-coded all the fragrance database with PHP, and a MySQL database.

Here is Basenotes Version 7:





At this point the site was busier than ever, and the site kept crashing.




The previous year, I'd had an email from this new start-up that aimed to modernise forums. The deal was, they'd look after the business and tech side of things, and I'd be left to get on with running the site. I told them no.

But the site kept crashing, and I needed to do something.

In 2011, the founder of this new start-up was coming to London and wanted to meet me. This seemed like it could be the answer to all of the problems. I could let someone else worry about the server, and all that ad sales stuff I was so rubbish at...

What could go wrong?

Basenotes Version 8 (Summer 2013)

This was the worst mistake I'd ever made with Basenotes.

The start-up, Huddler took all of Basenotes and crammed it into their system. On the day of launch I'd decided it was horrible and wanted out.

It was May. There were six months left on the contract. I had to wait it out.

Here are some pictures of The Huddler Basenotes. No Burberry Touch this time, sadly. (Basenotes Plus members can read a detailed history of the Huddler saga here)




October 2013 came, and we reverted back to Basenotes Version 7 as quick as we could.

Basenotes Version 9 (2013)

After we came back home to proper Basenotes, I needed to get to work on a few things. By this point, over half of our visitors were looking at the site on a phone. And we really wasn't cut out for that.

The software we were using for the forums (vBulletin 4) had a mobile skin, but it was really, really bad. Ideally I needed to learn how to make the site responsive to whichever screen it was viewed on.

So I recoded all the directory stuff again. I'm going to show pictures, even though this version of the site is, for most of you, what Basenotes has always looked like. One day it will look weird though, so here are the pics! (and we finally replaced that pic of Burberry Touch)






We stayed on this version of the site far longer than we should have. It seemed such a big job to move to a new platform, I kept putting it off. Then a pandemic hit, and that delayed things... but finally we are here. Basenotes Version 10

Basenotes Version 10 (2021)

No need for pics this time, you're in it! (Burberry Touch is here btw).

Thank you all for being part of Basenotes. You are what makes this worthwhile. Here's to another 21 years!


2000 - 2002


2002 - 2003


2003 - 2004


2004 - 2006


2006 - 2013




2014 - 2021


2021 - ????​
About author
Grant is the founder and owner of Basenotes and lives by the sea.


Love this history! Yeah, I entered at a great time! It was a very inviting interface. Those were good days. Cheers to Basenotes 2008! 🍺 But now is even more awesome. This is back in the groove!
Thank you Grant for founding this great site for us scentheads 20 years ago. May it still go strong for another 20+ years!

PS Love the new site it rocks on my iPhone!
Happy birthday Basenotes! I didn't actually join Basenotes until 2005 but I recognize the very first version. So green! I also thought it was just for men but I still read reviews and learned a lot. That's why I'm still around; I'm still learning. In addition, I have met wonderful friends here.
Thank you Grant for founding this great site for us scentheads 20 years ago. May it still go strong for another 20+ years!

PS Love the new site it rocks on my iPhone!
And I believe you were there from the very beginning!
What a trip, down memory lane no less! BN was there for me like a cool sanctuary when my life went topsy turvy back then. Thank you for building this awesome tribal space, Grant. It’s been a blast.
Congratulations on your 21st trip around the internet and many wonderful accolades, awards and friends made along the way! Basenotes was one of the rare few fragrance sites that encompassed everything back in the day. Glad to see this gem is still shining and maintaining momentum.
I was a lurker until October, 2006 when. I pulled the ripcord. I stumbled through the Huddled period with the rest. This version raised a both Of getting used to but I am finding it smoother and. easier and easier to use day by day. All in all a good and necessary move by Grant. Cheers 'to Basenotes Birthday!
It's amazing to see how Basenotes has changed over the years and how it was even before I became a member.

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