Whirlpool is an Australian broadband user web site, started in 1998 by founder, Simon Wright. Since then, it has grown significantly with over 495,000 registered users (as of May 2012) while remaining independent.
Whirlpool started as a pun on the name of Telstra's BigPond cable Internet service. However, it soon expanded to cover Optus' Optus@Home cable Internet service (now known as OptusNet), ADSL based services, and other forms of broadband in Australia as they became available.
The website undergoes occasional re-designs; the most recent re-design included a new logo and was implemented on 3 April 2008.
On 11 September 2007 it was announced that 2Clix Software was commencing legal action against Whirlpool founder, Simon Wright, for posts made by users in the Whirlpool forums that 2Clix claimed were "false and malicious". 2Clix claimed it had lost approximately A$150,000 income per month between January and July 2007 and sued for this amount plus legal costs.
Whirlpool users responded immediately by sending Paypal donations to assist with the site's legal costs, with some users claiming they had sent donations exceeding A$1,000. The co-founder of PIPE Networks personally pledged a donation of A$10,000 towards the cause.
On 19 September 2007 2Clix solicitors stated that they had received instructions to discontinue the case.
A significant part of the site is the Broadband Choice facility. Its database of over 10,407 services from 196 providers (as of 6 December 2011) makes it the most comprehensive list of Internet plans and prices in Australia.
Broadband Choice allows a user to find options available to them and to filter them by features such as price, speed and usage limits. In most cases, details about Internet service providers (ISPs) and their plans are maintained by staff of each ISP, which are then editorially approved by Whirlpool. A few ISPs, such as Telstra, are maintained by Whirlpool. Small or niche ISPs who are unaware of the website or are uninterested in submitting their plans may not be listed.
The purpose of the forums is to provide a place to discuss broadband and related areas (such as networking). Representatives from many Australian service providers, hardware vendors and merchants use Whirlpool as a strictly non-official support and communication channel.
Some features present on other message boards such as signatures, avatars and in-line images have been excluded by design to keep the site 'clean'. Many of the long term users agree that despite some shortcomings, Whirlpool's differences are beneficial to the forum, and set it apart from "pre-written" forum software.
Whirlpool uses an 'open moderation' policy, so when threads and posts are deleted or moved, placeholders are left allowing users to see the moderation that has taken place. This is different from other forum software, where deleted threads may simply disappear from view, and posts may be edited by moderators unbeknownst to users. As a result, any moderation is more obvious than on most typical internet forums, which use off-the-shelf software like phpBB or vBulletin.
The forum also has very few off-topic areas (known as 'lounges'), which are generally only available to long standing or highly active members of the community.
Until recently, Whirlpool's servers suffered from capacity issues, which were handled by 'cooling down' the server when load exceeded capacity. The cooling down message was affectionately known as a TSOD (Teal Screen of Death, a play on the Windows BSOD) and become part of the forum culture. Whirlpool now has ample server capacity, consigning TSOD messages into history.
Whirlpool has its own Wiki. It is an accumulation of information put together by forum users in 'sticky threads' over time, with the hope of cutting down forum clutter while also allowing more collaborative content development. It includes information that is difficult to find aggregated into one place elsewhere, such as the Australian Exchange Guide(a guide to the locations of Australian telephone exchanges), a list of Australian computer shops and a list of Australian VoIP providers.
The people behind the site
Simon Wright, as founder and main developer, developed the site in ColdFusion. Phil Sweeney assists by writing news and keeping Broadband Choice updated.
Previously, Whirlpool existed with no revenue stream. Unlike many forums, Whirlpool had no banners nor paid advertising. Recently, the owner has begun using Google AdSense in pages that result from Google searches, for users who are not logged in.
Bandwidth and web hosting are donated by Bulletproof Networks, an Australian hosting company. Prior to 2011, the site was hosted by WebCentral under a similar arrangement.
Most day-to-day administrative tasks are conducted by a team of unpaid volunteer members, who have been given varying degrees of moderation privileges in the forums. All moderators have been picked from a pool of long-standing members who have been noticed by the site administrators as being level-headed and trustworthy.
Relationship with ISPs
A unique property of Whirlpool is the degree of participation from industry players. A reasonable number of the more progressive ISPs have recognised the potential for Whirlpool to act as a bi-directional communication channel with their customers. While this very direct communication with their customers presents many challenges, it also allows ISPs to build strong grass-roots support and trust with their customer base. Whirlpool is rare in that relatively few online forums offer the ability for customers to discuss topics and issues with not only each other on a national basis, but also with the vast majority of large service providers in one spot.
Best Technology Media Website, Sun Microsystems MediaConnect IT Journalism Awards
- Nominated, 2003
- Winner, 2004 
- Winner, 2005 
- Finalist, 2006
Best Technology Title, Sun Microsystems MediaConnect IT Journalism Awards
Most Popular Website, News and Media - IT Media, Hitwise
- #1, October December 2002
- #2, January March 2003
- #1, April June 2003
- #2, July September 2003
- #1, October December 2003
- #2, January March 2004
- #3, April June 2004
- #3, July September 2004
- #1, October December 2004
- #1, January March 2005
- #2, April June 2005
- #1, July September 2005
- #2, October December 2005
- #1, January March 2006
- #1, April June 2006
- #1, July September 2006