The first Hel.fi pages were published in May 1995. You can now travel back in time to the old Hel.fi pages! What happened in May 1995, at a time when the Mayor of Helsinki was Kari Rahkamo? What did the pages look like in 1997? How about in 1999?
Why was the site named Hel.fi?
The University of Helsinki registered the domain name Helsinki.fi as early as 1987. When the City of Helsinki started to plan a website of its own on 30 September 1994, it was decided to name the site Hel.fi. The reasons included the brevity of the name and compliance with the code name of Helsinki Airport (HEL). A short domain name was desirable, in order to keep directory trees and the URL’s of subpages short enough.
The 1995 website
The first Hel.fi pages launched in 1995 were in three languages: Finnish, Swedish and English. The contents included the City of Helsinki Event Calendar, information for visitors and entrepreneurs, an extensive package on Helsinki’s year 2000 European Cultural Capital project and links to the City Library and other online services.
In addition, there was an index of city services in the alphabetical order, the City organization chart, basic statistical information and a short history of Helsinki. From the very beginning, customers were given the opportunity to submit feedback and questions to the City Hall information office by email. Feedback messages numbered more than one hundred in the first six months.
The first web pages published in 1995 were produced in cooperation with the University of Art and Design Helsinki (now Aalto University). The first server was a 386SX removed from other service, and the operating system was Linux. The City’s own network, comprising 4,000 to 5,000 work stations, was connected to the internet through a 256 Kbps interface.
The first City of Helsinki department to go online was City Library, which launched a web server on 28 February 1994, as the first public library in the world. The Public Works Department’s park service launched its own, extensive website in 1995.
Next reform in 1996
Hel.fi was reformed in the beginning of 1996, as the first pages became technically outdated in a year. The home page was divided into two columns, as servers began to support charts. The pie charts of the first pages were heavy and loaded slowly, so the new pages were made lighter. Customer feedback was positive in terms of the fast loading of the new pages, but opinions of the appearance of the pages were mixed: the pages were praised by some but claimed to be too plain by others.
By the end of 1996, all 31 City departments had their own websites. Hel.fi started to publish the agendas and decisions of the City Council, City Board and City committees.
Reform of 1998
Hel.fi was reformed again in 1998. Two new sections, Current and Recommended, were added. A German version of the pages was launched. Short news items on City affairs were published on Hel.fi daily from August 1999 onwards, and the eServices section was added.
A link to the Virtual Helsinki pages of the Helsinki Arena 2000 project was added to the top of the pages. The project and its 3D images attracted a great deal of international attention.
Website reform of Cultural Year 2000
The website was reformed in 2000 with special attention to visually impaired users. To ease their use of the site, the three-column home page was produced as a separate text version.
In the year 2000, Helsinki was a European Cultural Capital and celebrated its 450th anniversary. Both themes were highlighted by their own websites, and links to the sites were provided at the bottom of the Hel.fi home page.
All new again in 2005
The technical platform, concept and appearance of Hel.fi were renewed in 2005. The goal was to create a uniform online appearance for the entire City of Helsinki organization as well as a uniform platform applicable for eServices. More real-time and current content was added, such as the current weather and the number of City job openings, and search functions were increased.
The reform was a success. Proof to the success was Helsinki’s 3rd rank globally and the top rank among European cities in “Digital Governance in Municipalities Worldwide Survey 2007” published on 7 July 2008. This U.N. survey on the websites of major cities worldwide is carried out every two years. The basic concept of Hel.fi remained unchanged to 2014.
Year 2014 – use of mobile devices increases
Hel.fi was reformed in 2014 to respond to mobile devices and tablets. The use of Hel.fi on mobile devices in particular has increased since the reform. Nearly all City department websites were renewed during 2015 to comply with the new appearance and concept.
Embark on a journey in time!
Click yourself onto the Hel.fi pages of 1995, 1997 and 1998! Please note that many of the links on the pages do not work any longer, especially those to pages outside Hel.fi.