Donald Trump is a television and tabloids kind of guy.
It’s easy to see why. Broadcast and publishing platforms helped make him a star. Page Six crowned Trump the unofficial king of New York’s gossip pages in the 1980s and 1990s. The reality-TV craze of the 2000s ensured he remained a household name.
Today, it has been suggested that you can tell which cable news station Trump is watching by tracking his tweets—which at times seem to be direct responses to whatever’s being said on air. (Often, Fox News.)
Trump’s love of television notwithstanding, he is very much a president for the internet age—and not only because, with his infamously trigger-happy Twitter finger, he is making full use of the self-publishing power of the internet.
In fact, Trump has a decades-long presence online.
As a trip through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine reveals, the president’s digital real estate has often appeared as glittery, aspirational, and over-the-top as his offline properties. It’s also clear that he appreciated the power of the web to reach people directly relatively early-on.
“It’s great to be with you on the internet,” Trump says in a short video that appeared on his website in 2000, five years before YouTube was founded. “We’ve worked very hard to make our homepage your homepage,” he continues. (This doesn’t make sense, exactly, but it does sound hospitable.)
Domain registry records show that Trump.com—which now directs visitors to the Trump Organization’s website—was first registered in 1997. It was used to promote Trump hotels and casinos soon thereafter. (The first Internet Archive snapshot of the site wasn’t captured until 1998, so it’s not clear when the site first went live.) Trump has also used TrumpOnline.com, DonaldTrump.com, and DonaldJTrump.com—the latter two of which now redirect to his presidential campaign site—for going-on 20 years.
On all of these websites, from the very beginning, Trump himself has been highly visible. Trump the brand, after all, has always been about Trump the man. Here’s a screenshot from his TrumpOnline.com homepage in the early 2000s:
In the early 2000s, Trump also made good use of animated GIFs and Flash video, using the standard software of the era. One particularly garish website intro begins with an animated Trump jet taking off and ends with a huge close-up of Trump’s face. (Click here to watch the video with the original audio.)