Optional (Paid subscription previously required for Hyperspace section)
Founded in November of 1996, StarWars.com is the official website for Star Wars run by Lucas Online, the online entertainment arm of Lucasfilm Ltd. Evolving considerably in its fifteen-year history, the site has undergone frequent redesigns that are often motivated by the current Star Wars movie in production. Its latest iteration began in 2011.
The site is subdivided into a number of sections, including separate areas dedicated to each film and the Expanded Universe, and a former section that was only accessible to paid members, known as Hyperspace. One popular segment of the site was the Databank, which was replaced by the Encyclopedia in September 2011.
StarWars.com was launched in 1996 to help market the upcoming 1997 release of the Special Edition Star Wars Trilogy. It was the first official movie website to post video documentaries in anticipation of a theatrical release, with the multi-part "Anatomy of a Dewback" series. Following the release of the Special Edition Trilogy, StarWars.com focused its attention on Episode I, providing news updates, behind-the-scenes features and the popular web documentary ("webdoc") series "Making Episode I," which was also known as "Lynne's Diaries" as installments were often introduced by Lucasfilm's Head of Public Relations, Lynne Hale. In 1998, when it first hosted the Episode I teaser trailer, StarWars.com broke download records in a major milestone of Internet events.
After the release of Episode I, StarWars.com diversified its content to include coverage of the Expanded Universe and community activities. It adopted its multi-section model in the build-up to Episode II. During Episode II's production, StarWars.com posted weekly videos hosted by Ahmed Best from the set of production, entitled "on location." It also posted a photo or image hand-picked by George Lucas every week as a "George Lucas Select." It was during this period that StarWars.com supplemented its online coverage with a biweekly newsletter, the Homing Beacon.
Right before Episode III started principal photography, StarWars.com introduced a pay-service component to its coverage. For an annual subscription rate of $19.99, subscribers would have access to exclusive coverage, including daily Set Diaries from Australia, a live webcam broadcasting from the set, online chats, and exclusive archival content, such as the deleted Episode II scene "Jedi Attack on the Control Ship" and classic reprints of the original Bantha Tracks newsletter.
In 2004, with the transfer of the Star Wars Insider license from Paizo Publishing to IDG Entertainment, the Official Fan Club ceased to be a licensed property and returned in-house to Lucasfilm, where it became part of StarWars.com Hyperspace. The online subscriber service was renamed Hyperspace: The Official Star Wars Fan Club. Also that same year, Lucasfilm entered the direct retail business for the first time with the opening of StarWarsShop.com.
In October 2006, StarWars.com was voted as best Official Movie Site at movies.com's first annual readers' poll. In December 2006, the site recognized its ten-year milestone as item number 10 of Star Wars: The Best of 2006. April 30, 2007 brought Visual Guides to the website, but only for a limited run of seven chapters, before being discontinued indefinitely. On May 24, 2007, the main page of the site underwent a major refurbishment at the start of Celebration IV. Beginning in April 2008, the site's regular update schedule was altered, with stories being posted increasingly less frequently. While the weekly polls rotated and a new page was added to promote the new The Clone Wars film, the site did not post any new updates from May 29 until it relaunched with a new design on July 1, 2008.
The new site was more Flash-based, but much of the site's content was never converted for the newer format. Fan reaction to the new site was decidedly negative, with an outpouring of complaints on message boards regarding the new look, the vast amount of missing content (something the fans paid for with their Hyperspace subscriptions but no longer had access to), and the non-user-friendly navigation. According to official forum posts, all old content was to be be put back up, much of it now available to all users, but this never happened with even a fraction of the old archives.
On September 13, 2011, another massive overhaul of the website occurred, part of a wider-spanning streamlining of content. This included the discontinuation of the site forums, the end of the exclusive members-only Hyperspace Club, and later the closing of the site blog pages. The Databank was converted into an on-site Encyclopedia, which included links to Wookieepedia articles for its subjects. The online store ceased centralized operations, becoming a reference hub to external sites of licensed online vendors of official merchandise.
Ask the Jedi Council
"Ask the Jedi Council" was a section in the official Star Wars website where selected members of the production crew answered questions raised by fans. The section is now inaccessible, and has been replaced with a "Questions and Answers" section that includes all previous "Ask the Jedi Council" questions. "Ask the Jedi Council" was shut down in 2005.
The StarWars.com Databank was considered the official online Star Wars databank. Its content was divided into Characters, Locations, Species, Creatures, Technology, Vehicles and Starships, and also categorized by Episode appearance. It even had hundreds of Expanded Universe articles explaining characters that were in the movies and their adventures along with Expanded Universe planets and technology.
The Databank was replaced in 2011 by the Encyclopedia. The Encyclopedia does not contain a fully comprehensive account of all aspects of the Star Wars saga and Expanded Universe material. Many of its pages are related to Star Wars: The Clone Wars and a great amount of material is not included—since the Encyclopedia largely focuses on the recent aspects of Star Wars, as opposed to the minutiae covered on this site—for example, material from the second half of The New Jedi Order series, the Dark Nest Trilogy and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.
Hyperspace began in 2003 as a pay service on StarWars.com, and in 2004 became the official Star Wars fan club. It has member-exclusive webstrips, behind-the-scenes features, and other exclusive material, such as exclusive items to buy on StarWarsShop.com. Originally, U.S. subscribers to Hyperspace also became Fan Club members and received subscriptions to the Star Wars Insider magazine. This was later changed so that subscribers could choose which services they wished to receive. The Hyperspace service was discontinued with the 2011 reformat of the site.
DVD-ROM Exclusive Content
Owners of the Star Wars DVDs have access to an exclusive section of the site that provides "Behind the Scenes" commentary for all six films.
News and Other Features
StarWars.com has updated news about many different Star Wars topics like the Expanded Universe, Episode III and Star Wars in general. It updates every weekday, around 5 to 6 p.m. Pacific time, as the content team is situated in San Francisco, California at the Lucasfilm headquarters at the Presidio. Other notable sections include The Clone Wars, StarWarsKids and Community.
Its news headlines are distributed via an RSS feed that many fan sites have incorporated into their front-page designs, including TheForce.net.
Hyperspace members were able to create a blog at StarWars.com and visit other fans' blogs. Visitors could comment on blogs but could not create a blog without being a member of Hyperspace.
Some notable Star Wars celebrities created Star Wars blogs in the past, which were VIP blogs that only Hyperspace members could comment on.
Located on StarWars.com, the Star Wars Message Boards were a moderated community where fans could post messages about anything from the movies to the Expanded Universe to even non–Star Wars topics. The boards were closed on June 3, 2011.
An in-depth look behind the scenes at Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope appears in a series of updates containing screenplay sections, rare photographs, trivia and annotated screenshots.
Notes and references
- ↑ "Introduction to Students of History", The New Essential Chronology (page xv)
- ↑ http://forums.starwars.com/thread.jspa?threadID=266188
- The history of starwars.com - A StarWars.com blog entry by user Darth Vader