- "This is just a fan site, created by a fan, for the fans."
The Completely Unofficial Star Wars Encyclopedia or CUSWE was an unofficial compilation of everything there is to know about Star Wars, from the thousands of planets to species and races, from weapons to ships, and from languages to creatures. It was available online as a searchable database, and since its creation in the early 1990s, it was written and programmed almost exclusively by Bob Vitas. In March 2006, the Encyclopedia moved to its own site.
As discussed by Bob Vitas, the Encyclopedia's previous webhosts at TheForce.net retained a version of the site online subsequent to this move. The TFN version retains design and content modifications which appeared in a revamp in December 2005, apparently abandoned at the new site.
As of early 2013, CUSWE's domain name was not renewed. The site is currently no longer active.
The CUSWE was maintained in a back-end Access database, with ASP files handling the basic functions of the site. The entire database was somewhere around 38MB in size, while the coding for all the pages amounts to about 1MB.
The CUSWE moved to its own site (cuswe.org), and experienced about 15,000 unique pages requests each week. The peak recently occurred during the first week in March 2007, when the site served over 57,000 unique requests. Oddly enough, the busiest day of the week is Thursday.
The first edition of each calendar year was given a new number (in 2007, it was on the Version 9 series), and subsequent updates were denoted in single increments (eg., 9.1, 9.2, etc.). Timing of each edition was based primarily on the release schedule of the major novels that were published, so that information was published to the web in a timely fashion. The administrator's personal schedule sometimes intruded on update operations, so it was never a regular schedule, and updates were provided on the main page. A complete history of the CUSWE and its versions were found on the site's News page.
Background and pre-historyEdit
The vision for the CUSWE was to create a resource from all Lucasfilm-licensed sources of Star Wars information. It was created without regard for what is "canon" and what is not "canon" in the Star Wars universe. Vitas has spoken with several respected members of the Star Wars community, both officially and unofficially, and more than a few have grown to consider the Marvel tales as "myths and legends" within the Star Wars timeline. As such, they may or may not have happened exactly as retold in the Marvel comics. Vitas came to think of the Marvel comics as a retelling of events occurring during the Galactic Civil War from the perspective of individuals who were in the background while the action was taking place.
The CUSWE was first made available to friends of Vitas in 1994, after about two and a half years of work. Originally, it was compiled in a few text files, since the only information Vitas was not yet aware of was the West End Games material when Heir to the Empire came out. CUSWE's growth with the addition of the WEG material and the commensurate file sizes caused reconsideration to the initial compiling process, so Vitas switched to WordPerfect. Once the text files were converted over and work began on making the data presentable, the First Edition was released.
Work continued to expand the CUSWE, especially due to the West End Games material and the impact of Bantam Spectra's deal to produce new novels.
Early years on the internetEdit
After seeing several Star Wars sites on the World Wide Web, Vitas acquired an HTML plug-in for WordPerfect and decided it was time to "go public." He reported that the first HTML conversion took about 14 hours to complete the entire encyclopedia, and that it was about 2 Megabytes in size as a WP60 file. Using an AOL account at the time, he stated that the connection could only handle about 15 letters of the alphabet at a time, so he had to discern what information to efficiently display. After a couple of attempts trying other converters to get the 14-hour conversion time reduced, he abandoned WordPerfect and switched to Word 97. He said that it took about ten minutes for the HTML code to convert the 5 megabyte compilation of files, leaving more time to consider how to make the encyclopedia presentable.
Vitas moved from AOL to Mindspring, and was able to get the full encyclopedia uploaded. However, he was limited to 450 Megabytes of transfer per month;however—since the prequels started making headlines about that time—the site occasionally began to hit its limit. About a year prior to the prequels release, the site hit its transfer limit every month. It was at this time that MosEisley.com offered to host the CUSWE.
Expansion and mergerEdit
Soon after this move, the CUSWE began to get a lot of notes from readers asking to have files sent to them via e-mail. Apparently, the new server was handling the HTML code pretty well, but downloads were only completing about half the time. Also, the CUSWE continued to grow, so space started to become an issue. Vitas, therefore, began searching for a new home for the CUSWE and TheForce.Net agreed to supply plenty of space and technical help for getting improved response times. Thus, the CUSWE became part of one of the largest Star Wars sites on the internet. TheForce.Net had already recognized the encyclopedia as a good site, and now it was on its way to becoming the main Star Wars encyclopedia on the internet at the time.
The creation of the back-end Access database for storing the CUSWE was crude at first. Each change caused its own set of problems, not the least of which was that a lot of information could be stored for a topic that might not even be displayed on a page. It was all kept in the database for future expansion, as many database-savvy readers suggested. It was around this time that the Wookieepedia came into existence, and the two sites together grew to collectively form the largest fan-maintained collection of information about the Star Wars universe—second only to the official Holocron.
Site expansion on the CUSWE was curtailed in 2005, when the TFN changed its format to a more center-column display. With the information in the CUSWE restricted to only the center column, Vitas decided to remove the CUSWE on its own site—cuswe.org.
Although Vitas planned to develop the next edition of the CUSWE, as well as do some rework on site layout, including improved image placement, CUSWE's domain name was not renewed as of early 2013 and the site is currently no longer active.
- The Completely Unofficial Star Wars Encyclopedia
- Star Wars Encyclopedia (old version, no longer updated) at TheForce.net