[Main InfoUkes Logo]
Andrew Melnyk

MANY FORUM READERS, and certainly any teenager in North America, will recognize the line http://www.infoukes.com/ as an Internet web address. This is remarkable, given that the concept of the web is only five years old, younger even than the newly independent Ukraine. In fact, the Internet site that became InfoUkes came into existence in November of 1991 because of Ukraine's drive for independence. But before telling you that story, I need to make a background detour about the Internet.


The Internet is very much in the news these days. It has been variously described as the information highway of the future, computers interlinked by communication lines, the merger of computer and telecommunication technologies, and so on. Defining the Internet is much like the story about the blind men trying to visualize an elephant.

When the Soviet Sputnik launched by the Ukrainian Serhiy Korolev, humiliated the United States in 1957, the space program received major government funding from the Department of Defense under its Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). In the early 1960s, most of the DoD space program transferred to NASA. ARPA needed alternative programs to maintain its budget and some young researchers proposed that ARPA support large-scale basic research in computer science. One of the projects, called ARPANET (ARPA Network), began connecting various computers around the country at sites performing research for ARPA. Computers in those days were expensive, and sharing them was the way to distribute the resources appropriately.

Although others have linked computers together before and since, the Internet was revolutionary in two regards: It did not rely on any one computer to run it (all computers were peers) and it was independent of the computer details, that is, any computer or local network could be connected. The internet protocol (IP) enabled each computer to know, or find out, the paths to any other and route packets of information to their destination via the quickest path. Also there were special computers, called gateways that not only monitored the status of the paths but were able to connect dissimilar networks by translating information so that it passed transparently from one net to the other.

In the 1969 budget squeeze, Congress told ARPA to stop funding basic research with money from the defense budget, so the computer research program was scrapped but ARPANET, run by a 32 year old MIT graduate by the name Robert Taylor, survived. The military planners justified ARPANET both as a tool for the quick communication of research between defense contractors, as essential for defense because of its resilience to nuclear attack.

At that time, some 20 major computer centers were linked, reaching 500 by 1983. Only government laboratories or defense contractors or universities doing ARPA research were on the Internet. Other networks began to appear. For example, BITNET, developed to connect IBM mainframes between two university computer centers was started in 1981 and by 1994 grew to 1,400 organizations in 49 countries. In 1986 the National Science Foundation started NSFNET to connect super-computer centers around the country. It linked to ARPANET as well as to all the university nets, interconnecting them all. Eventually the faster NSFNET entirely supplanted ARPANET and the university nets. Thus, beginning in the mid 1980's, the Internet began to grow geometrically, a growth that continues to this day. In 1986 there were about 2,000 sites, in 1989 100,000 sites, in 1992 about 1,000,000 and by the end of 1995 there were over 5,000,000 sites on the Internet. Except for private networks like AOL and Compuserve, the users tended to be mainly academics, students, members of National Laboratories and employees of major corporations. In 1995 NSFNET itself was decommissioned and replaced with privately owned backbones so the Internet became commercial, and thus available to anyone with a computer.


Three other key events in the history of the Internet need to be mentioned.

In 1979 a couple of graduate students developed a way to exchange news quickly and with more recipients than e-mail could handle, on a network called USENET. USENET originally relied on modems and telephone lines but as the number of sites grew it was connected to ARPANET and thus became part of the Internet. Although called news groups, they were more like world-wide bulletin-boards or discussion-groups. Any one could join, post questions, replies or disagree with previous messages. Originally the groups were computer- and science-related, but expanded freely to any topic in which there was sufficient interest; art, music, religion, politics, etc.

The second key event was the development of the personal computer and the easier to use graphical user interface (GUI). Without these innovations computers and the Internet would still be confined to an expert priesthood. The PC revolution, begun by Apple Computer, made computers affordable, and the GUI made them usable. The GUI, or desktop metaphor, came into existence at the Xerox Research Labs, made into a commercial product, the Macintosh, by Apple Computer, and made Bill Gates the richest man on earth. It is no accident that the same Bob Taylor, who managed the ARPANET project, was the manager of the Xerox Computer Science Lab that made this development.

The third key event was the World Wide Web (WWW) which brought an easy-to-use graphical interface to the Internet. Although there was a lot of data available on the Internet, for example the complete works of Shakespeare or declassified CIA data on Ukraine's economy, it was not easy to find. Special search engines called, Archie, Gopher, Veronica, and others, were developed to catalogue information (in wee hours, when humans are asleep, the computers talked to each other to find out what information each had available and where to find it). But the interfaces still required the user to remember arcane commands, to “download the file and open it in the appropriate program. In 1992, physicists at CERN (European Laboratory for Elementary Particles) in Switzerland developed a protocol for requesting human readable information stored at a remote system, using networks. Their objective was to give scientists a way to exchange many kinds of data (text, images, figures, databases) using an extension of a concept known as hypertext. A group of students at the University of Illinois developed a web browser to read the html (hyper text markup language) code sent by the WWW server and present it graphically in a program called Mosaic. Some of these students went on to start a company called Netscape.


In 1991, the only USENET forum for discussing Ukrainian matters on the Internet were the news groups talk.politics.soviet and soc.culture.soviet. These news groups became a hotbed of discussion and battles when Ukraine declared its intention to separate from the Soviet Union. Some Russians, who had emigrated to the United States in the 1980s did their utmost to impugn the legitimacy of Ukraine and the Ukrainian language and culture. Later, in 1993, Bohdan Rekshynskyj initiated two specifically Ukrainian news groups soc.culture.ukrainian and alt.current-events.ukraine. Today they are still the major news groups for discussing Ukrainian matters and heated arguments continue there.

To counter anti-Ukrainian propaganda, around mid-1991, two Ph.D. students, one from Carnegie Mellon University and the other from the University of Pennsylvania and an AT&T Labs engineer organized to coordinate responses. Other students and faculty of Ukrainian descent joined the group including Andrew Ukrainec, then a Ph.D. student at McMaster University and Gerry Kokodyniak, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto.

As membership to this group grew it became impractical to e-mail everybody in mass mailings. So Ukrainec set-up a Ukes mailing list server in November of 1991 on a computer at McMaster University. (List mailers are like news groups except one has to be a registered member to send and receive postings.) The Ukes list membership was by invitation only and while initially it was to discuss tactics to counter disinformation in news groups, in time it became a discussion group on Ukrainian topics itself. Ukrainec also set up a file server on the McMaster site to allow members to obtain or exchange images, Ukrainian fonts, access to archived articles and other Ukrainian materials.

In January 1993, the Ukraine list server ukraine@indycms.bitnet, a moderated mailing list open to anyone, was started by John Harlan. Many non-Ukrainians joined this list and it initially provided an excellent forum for discussing matters about Ukraine. It lasted only a year and was shut down by John Harlan because of conflicts and generally uncivil discussions. Many of the participants of this list migrated to the Ukes list which opened up to new members. As the number of postings to the Ukes list increased, the Ukes list was discontinued and replaced by two lists, ukes-news, a moderated news-only list, and ukes-social, an open free for all discussion forum. A third specialized list, ucpb, was set up as a discussion forum for the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Federation created by Michael Kostiuk. Thus the Ukes site became a broad service site to the Ukrainian Internet community.


In October 1994, Oleh Baran, a physics student at McGill University, created the first Ukrainian WWW site. Other sites by students began to appear, so in January 1995, Kokodyniak started a web server on a computer at the University of Toronto, providing links to all pages with Ukrainian content. Shortly thereafter, Ukrainec also added WWW capabilities to the Ukes site: http://soma.crl.mcmaster.ca/ukes/.

1995 saw an explosive growth of web servers and this included pages with Ukrainian information. Web servers began to appear in Ukraine at major universities and institutes and ISPs providing internet access. However, both the sites in Ukraine and most of the student sites had limited content. Two other major US sites which appeared in 1995 are worth noting, one at the Ohio Supercomputer Center organized by Max Pyziur, which began as a file server and gopher site. Recently this site also moved from the university becoming a commercial site called Brama. The other is the Ukrainian FAQ Plus site maintained by Rekshynskyj and funded by the Sabre Foundation. It also had its beginnings as a gopher site.

And it was in 1995 that I joined Kokodyniak and Ukrainec. Although I followed the discussions (arguments?) on the Ukrainian news groups and in weak moments even participated, it appeared to me not a fruitful exercise. The appearance of the WWW struck me as the key to two problems: the inevitable assimilation of Ukrainian descendants in America who want to maintain knowledge of their origins and the general ignorance of Americans about Ukraine. Having visited Ukraine in 1993 I obtained a number of detailed topological oblast (state or province) maps. These were former Soviet military maps sold on the streets of Kiev. Having such maps on the web could help individuals find the villages of their Ukrainian ancestors and thus might attract individuals of Ukrainian descent. Publishing information about Ukraine in an attractive graphical format would be much more productive than attempting to correct disinformation on various news groups. Looking for a university site, I contacted Kokodyniak via e-mail and this led to the Ukrainian map server on his site. The map server in turn attracted the attention of Walter Maksimovich, an engineer with NASA, who also saw the tremendous potential of WWW in informing the world about Ukraine and especially his native Lemkivshchyna.

InfoUkes, Inc.

Kokodyniak's University of Toronto site was closed down in November 1995 by the engineering faculty who, for various reasons, thought it was inappropriate for an engineering school. The material was then moved to Ukrainec's Ukes site at McMaster University. But this was a warning that academic sites were vulnerable (academic freedom notwithstanding) and we started discussing how to fund our own site. During 1996 Kokodyniak and Ukrainec approached and made presentations to a number of Ukrainian organizations to find one that would support the project. The effort was unsuccessful, the leaders of Ukrainian organizations did not see the potential of the Internet. But in the process we met two other like-minded individuals who were trying to get their organization to use the Internet. Orest Dorosh and Andrew Javni also saw the Internet as the medium for communicating information about Ukraine and joined us. Dorosh is a professional graphic artist, a critical skill in the graphic-rich WWW environment.

In the end the six of us -- Ukrainec, Kokodyniak, Maksimovich, Dorosh, Javni and I came to the conclusion that the only way we could set up our own site is to start our own company. There were discussions about whether to make it a non-profit organization but we decided on a for-profit company so we could accept advertising, the only reliable source of income on the Internet. We also debated about the name, whether Ukes was too frivolous and considered names with various forms of Ukraine. In the end we rejected any name with Ukraine in it because we are a North American site and should not be confused with sites officially from Ukraine. Thus was born InfoUkes, Inc. Our plan was to put up the initial seed money to start the operations and fund it for about a year by which time we would have sufficient added income to cover the monthly ISP and telephone charges and start paying off the capital expenses.

On April 16, 1997, the InfoUkes site went on line as an independent Internet resource of information about Ukraine and Ukrainians. The InfoUkes internet site is designed primarily for anyone interested in Ukraine, Ukrainians and people of Ukrainian heritage. But is also especially directed to people of Ukrainian descent, particularly English speaking North Americans, who wish to learn more about their heritage. The two main services are a World Wide Web (WWW) server and a list server (e-mail distribution). The InfoUkes web server provides information on Ukraine and Ukrainian people throughout the world. The topics range from history, culture, maps, genealogy, through media and news publications on the Internet, software and links to web sites in Ukraine and the world with Ukrainian-related information.

InfoUkes contains the largest data base (300 MB and growing [InfoUkes: stated size as in August 1997, in March 1998 over 600 MB]) of information on Ukrainian related topics. A site search engine enables a user to search for specific words or phrases. Recently, the History Channel has recommended the InfoUkes site because of its extensive collection of materials on the Internment of Ukrainians in Canada during World War I. Our Lemko pages contain an extensive amount of material on the Lemko culture and history. Other recent additions are Litopys UPA: Chronicle of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and information on the Great Famine of 1932-33. The site also offers selected items from Forum magazine courtesy of Editor Andrew Gregorovich. For example, the Forum article on Ukraine in World War II is read by about 1,000 people every month from around the world. Many topics are still in progress and new material is added weekly.

The InfoUkes list server provides electronic mail forums for individuals with e-mail access to make inquiries, voice concerns and discuss issues related to Ukraine, Ukrainians and people of Ukrainian heritage. This electronic global village, or selo in Ukrainian, is open to anyone who abides by the rules of the service and net etiquette. The number of topical groups has grown to thirteen, including announcements, arts, business, computers, genealogy, history, humor, medicine, politics, religion, social, sports and travel.

The InfoUkes Internet site is a success. Since 1995, the number of visitors to the InfoUkes site has grown exponentially, from hundreds of file request per day to tens of thousands. The visitors are mainly from the US and Canada, though there is a growing number of visits from Europe, the Far East, the Middle East and, of course, Ukraine.


As the site continues to grow and expand, new materials and services are added on a weekly basis. InfoUkes provides web hosting to several commercial clients, among them the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Toronto, Litopys UPA, and the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program. Upcoming new projects include a database for storing various information, web-based electronic Ukrainian greeting cards, a more extensive collection of music samples. We welcome everyone to visit InfoUkes and help us to continue to be the largest and most comprehensive collection of electronic Ukrainian materials on the Internet!

Andrew Melnyk for InfoUkes

The Internet has become the prime medium of communication and information dissemination in the world. It is important that InfoUkes receive the continuing support of the Ukrainian community at large, both businesses and organizations, to become a self-supporting resource. If you or your organization believes with us that the Internet is an essential medium for informing the world about Ukraine and Ukrainians, we hope you will consider becoming a sponsor of the InfoUkes Internet site. If your business, organization or products are of interest to individuals with interest in Ukraine, consider advertising on the InfoUkes pages. InfoUkes also provides a variety of services, such as web site hosting, mailing lists, and web page creation. Contact us or see our web site for more information.

InfoUkes, Inc.
Suite 185, 3044 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M8X 2Y8
e-mail: webmaster@InfoUkes.com
www: http://www.InfoUkes.com



Andrew Ukrainec, Toronto

Gerald Kokodyniak, Toronto

Orest Dorosh, Toronto

Andrew Javni, Toronto

Andrew Melnyk, Rochester, N.Y.

Walter Maksimovich, Washington, D.C.

1. Toronto, Ont. Canada
Infoukes Site (InfoUkes Inc. Site)
2. Montreal, Que. Canada
UKRAINE WWW Page (Oleh Baran)
3. Boston, Mass., USA
Ukraine FAQ+WWW Page (Sabre Foundation)
4. New York, N.Y., USA
Tryzub Site (Bohdan Rekshynskyj)
5. New York, N.Y., USA
Welcome to Brama (Brama Inc. Site)
6. East Windsor, Conn., USA
Welcome to Ukraine (Frontier Vision Technologies Inc.)
7. Miami, Florida, USA
8. Vienna, Austria
Ukraine: The Homeland Page
9. Antwerp, Belgium
Welcome to Ukraine (Volodymyr Kindratenko)
10. Kiev, Ukraine
Welcome to the Parliament of Ukraine
11. Kiev, Ukraine
United Nations in Ukraine
12. Kiev, Ukraine
Kyiv Free Net
13. Kiev, Ukraine
Ukraine Online (Global Ukraine)
- G. Kokodyniak

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Document Information

Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/corporate/articles/forum/index.html

Copyright © 1997 Andrew Melnyk

Reprinted from FORUM Ukrainian Review No. 97, Fall 1997
Published by the Ukrainian Fraternal Association
440 Wyoming Ave., Scranton PA, 18503 USA
Telephone: (717) 342-0937

Copyright © 1998-2000 InfoUkes Inc.
E-mail: webmaster@infoukes.com

since May 7 1998
InfoUkes Inc.
Suite 185, 3044 Bloor Street West
Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada M8X 2Y8

Originally Composed: Thursday May 7th 1998.
Date last modified: Thursday October 30th 2003.