|It's hard to gather a very detailed timeline of the Sonic Internet community, since I came on late in 1995. But below are a few important events and pages that dominated the scene.
The Early Days: 1994-1996 - These days, there were only a handful of Sonic sites, namely Rat.org, Max's Sonic Page, Jason's Sonic Page, Mastermind's Vault, Bookshire's Page, and the Freedom Fighter Network. Rat.org dominated the scene, it had everything: MP3s, RAs, picture archive, WAVs, a 300K+ FAQ, huge archive of fan art (10+ submitions per day), and over 50 Sonic stories (which was a lot back then). Rat.org was the center piece of the Sonic fandom. Every page except a few linked to the archives. Mastermind's Vault at the time controled the Fan-fiction flow. It had over 100 stories (a lot for even today), and was popular to basicly everyone. Lastly there was the Freedom Fighter Network, it's like the Sonic News Press of today. Only then, it was the ONLY Sonic news page on the net.
Also need to mention that the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog newsgroup started in 1994 and rose quikly in popularity. Back then it had serious disscussions with few if any so called "lamers".
The Fall Of The Old: 1997 - At the end of 1996, Ken Penders, then the main writer of Sonic the Hedgehog, let out the call for change in the form of End Game. The notion of Sally's death ticked off more than a few fans. Arguements arose everywhere you look (especially on the newsgroup, there were the pro-kill off Sally who argued that the comic would seem more realistic if a character dies, then there were the SatAM fans that went all out against it). This event lead to the fall of Rat.org (Ratman just said he gave up on the fandom because it's not fun anymore). The fall of Rat.org was the biggest blow ever to the Sonic fandom. When it collapsed, almost every other Sonic page that depended on its downloads collaped as well. The summer of 1997 was a hard one, many fans quit the Sonic fandom because Sally came back in #50: "The Big Goodbye" and the drop off in quality after End Game. A few other pages that fell were the Freedom Fighter Network and Mastermind's Vault (never updated anymore). There were a few bright spots, Artail Productions (on AOL for a while), Knuxcom (on Dragonnet at the time) and Zifei's Sonic Page (started at Angelfire) shined in the mist of chaos.
During this time, because of the large drop off number in relatively mature Sonic fans, the newsgroup was overran by newbies. That's when I (Zif) quit it, so I won't mention it anymore. :-)
A (Bunch Of) New Hope(s): 1998 - This year saw the rise of a new generation of Sonic pages that completely controled the scope of the Sonic Internet Fandom. At the start of the year, a few month after Rat.org went away, a rumor started about a site called the Knothole Network. It was being branded as the next Rat. But it would never be, as it fell apart in the early stages. Then in the January of the year, The Sonic Foundation was formed. At first, this was just the average page, but as time went by, tSf got better and better. A few other sites started around this time, The Sonic Zone, The Knothole Village and The Sonic Corner. Even though they both started out small, they got better later on. In April of that year, Sonic HQ was formed based off Zifei's Sonic Page. Again, like the others, it started out pretty bad (on Geocities no less), but got better later on. For the first time, the sites were covering everything Sonic instead of just a specific section.
This was helped out by the fans who just got the Internet. 1998 saw the largest increase of Sonic fans on the net ever. This year also saw the largest increase in Sonic sites ever. At one point in late 1998, there were over 400 Sonic sites on the Internet.
The Return Of The Hedgehog: 1999 - "This will be a year long remembered, it has seen the end to the low in the Sonic Internet Community, and it will soon see the end of the drought in Sonic games." As Lord Vader would put it. And this is indeed the case. The major Sonic sites are doing better than ever, and there seem to be a rise in more quality sites (such as S2K and Sonicteam.com). The newsgroup is finally settling down and starting to have decent communication again. And best of all, new fans are coming. The Sonic Underground cartoon and Sonic Adventure would almost surely bring in 100,000 more fans. There also is a down side in this year, Knuxcom went away, so did The Knothole Village. There was also a surprise in this year. Sonic HQ decided to extend their presents by affiliating with a Mario site called the Mushroom Kindom through a joint venture network called the Gaming-Mascot. A few even brought up the term monoply about this event...I don't think so.
Heh, next thing you know Sonic HQ will merge with tSf, then it would really be monoply. ;-) That was a joke, so don't take it seriously.