Introducing FreeToastHost 2.0

Written by Bo Bennett on . Posted in Blog

I can't believe that it's been almost 8 years since the launch of  Back then, in 2003, web-based technology was very different and I used what tools I had to create a system that did the trick.  But as we all know, 8 years in Internet time is like a lifetime in the real world.  In 2011, the technology is available to do some amazing things  Likewise, web browser technology is to the point where virtually all Internet users can take advantage of this technology.  When Toastmasters International had asked me to update the FreeToastHost platform with some new templates as part of the major re branding campaign, I felt like this would be giving a 1980 Toyota Camry a new coat of paint.  What I really wanted to do, was deliver them a Ferrari.  FreeToastHost 2.0 is the result.

FreeToastHost 2.0 is a rebuild from the ground up, using exactly zero percent of the old code.  It is a result of 8 years of usage of FreeToastHost from close to 10,000 clubs around the world, and much feedback and suggestions.  It is making what was good, great.

Warning: If you are not interested in the techie stuff, skip this paragraph, before I put you to sleep.  FreeToastHost 2.0 is built upon the jQuery UI framework, using a combination of Javascript and CSS to perform advanced, real-time, requests that more resemble a desktop application than a website.  It uses Perl code for the back-end processing, and all data stored in MySQL databases, for super-fast queries and data retrieval (FTH 1.0 used all text flat files). This is a state of the art system, friendly to all major browsers released in the last couple of years.

Out with the Old

Back in 2003, the Toastmasters International website lacked virtually all of the great member tools they offer today.  In addition, social networking sites were non-existent, so I built some of these basic tools and features in the FTH 1.0 platform, like club goals, reports, detailed membership info, forum software, etc.  But to avoid duplicate resources, I have left out many of these features (very few clubs were using them anyway).

In with the New

You will find new features that were on the collective "wishlist" and many others which have been on my mind for some time.  Some of new features include:

  • Google Maps Integration for directions
  • Contact form, instead of making e-mail address public
  • Club and member social network links
  • Very advanced calendar
  • Unlimited custom webpage creation
  • Guests e-mail distribution list
  • New WYSISYG editors with image upload
  • Integration with Google Webmaster Central for detailed website statistics and data
  • Detailed member activity reports in XLS format
  • An Amazing Meeting Agenda System!
  • and more

I am most excited about the Meeting Agenda System, which replaces the "duty roster" on the FTH 1.0 platform.  I can't tell you how much time this will save just the Toastmasters at my club alone!

The Death of FTH 1.0

Due to the Toastmasters rebrand, we will be shutting down FTH 1.0 servers and websites at some future date (TBD).  This gives users of FTH 1.0 websites time to switch from a FTH 1.0 site to a new FreeToastHost 2.0 site.  The process will be easy, and details will be provided.

The Birth of a New Generation of Toastmasters Clubs Websites

I hope you will agree that the new FreeToastHost 2.0 websites will reflect positively on the Toastmasters brand, project a fun, yet professional image, and if I did my job correctly, result in better club/meeting management and even more members!

Thank you all so much for your support and kind words over the last 8 years.  Your kind words are the fuel that keeps me going and creates the desire in me to keep building a better mousetrap.