BUFFALO, N.Y. -- At the age of 10, while other children fretted
over how they'd fit in at middle school, Alexander Levine was
trying to start an online business.
He created three or four websites, including one that offered
Web design services and another that reviewed free Internet service
providers. Then he launched the site that would fund his college
education: OldVersion.com, http://oldversion.com, a
clearinghouse for old versions of computer software.
Levine is now a senior at the University at Buffalo, but the
idea for OldVersion.com came to him in 2001 when he was just 11
He and his father were using Napster to download Russian music.
When they tried to upgrade to a newer version of the file sharing
service, their computer crashed. After scouring the Web for about
45 minutes, Levine managed to locate the old version of Napster --
the one they had been using.
He found the software only by luck, on an outdated website whose
owner had clearly stopped updating content some time before.
That's when it struck him: If he was having this problem, maybe
others were experiencing it, too. Soon afterwards, at age 12, he
registered OldVersion.com with partner Igor Dolgalev, who left the
project a few years later.
Today, 10 years later, users download between 10,000 to 15,000
copies of software a day from the OldVersion website. As its name
implies, the site offers old versions of nearly 300 programs,
including LimeWire, AOL Instant Messenger, Opera, Acrobat Reader,
RealPlayer and, of course, Napster.
Levine says some people use the service because their computers
don't support new versions of software, while others simply prefer
the old versions.
The site's success has made Levine into an entrepreneur.
Advertising revenue has paid for his education at UB, and he has
ideas for other software-related startups he would like to launch
after he graduates in May.
"I just love the process of creating something," said Levine,
who has taken several entrepreneurship courses at UB's Millard
"When I first started the site, it was about making some money,"
he says, "but now I love the process of creating. I love the hustle
of starting a business."
Levine, the son of economists who emigrated from St. Petersburg,
Russia in 1995 to Liverpool, N.Y., a suburb of Syracuse, created
his own major at UB: "Theatre Anthropology" with a focus on the
Russian experience. He studies how different cultures approach
theater, with an emphasis on his native Russia, where he studied
for a semester.
While theater and business may seem to have little in common,
Levine said for him, "It's all connected."
He explains that studying and observing theater has enabled him
to become a more confident public speaker -- a useful quality for
an entrepreneur. In addition, he says that learning about different
cultures and spending time overseas taught him that companies will
be more likely to succeed if they respect the unique cultures of
the markets they hope to enter.
This June, Levine and his British business partner Travis Dane
celebrated the 10th anniversary of OldVersion.com with a redesign
of the site.
The new look expanded the site to include abandonware games such
as versions of Mortal Kombat, Superfrog and Lemmings. Abandonware
is a term used to describe discontinued products for which no
product support is available or whose copyright ownership may be
unclear for various reasons.
Another new OldVersion feature: Visitors who want to upload
software can now fill out an easy-to-use form and win points for
prizes by providing the site with clean files and accurate
information. Levine screens all uploaded software for viruses on
multiple operating systems, by the way, before releasing the
software to the public.
Since the redesign, OldVersion.com receives about 100 new
registrations per day. To further increase the site's reach, Levine
hopes to translate it into several languages.
"I'm really excited to work on the new phase of OldVersion.com,"
Levine says, noting the irony of OldVersion.com launching something
"new." He points out, however, that users whose browsers don't
support the new site will automatically be redirected to the old
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.