Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

June 20, 2005

Chronicles of the Undead

Is it scientifically possible for a Ghost Site to re-animate itself? Well, yes: such reanimations happen more frequently than one might suppose. Just because a site is dead today doesn't mean that it will be dead tomorrow. Human operators of ghost sites often return to their projects after long absences, and with a fresh flow of HTML, capital, and willpower, bring their sites, weblogs, or other Web presences back from the brink.

But the strangest spontaneous reanimations of dead Web sites often occur without any human intervention at all. It is as if an unseen, extra-human hand moves, pulls an invisible string, and suddenly, previously dead cyber-matter lifts its head, opens its eyes, and begins to walk again.

The best place to look for such anomolies is, quite naturally, at the Internet Archive, the world's most expansive cyber-mausoleum. In eerie fashion, sites that have been cached and stashed by the automatic spiders sent by Brewster Kahle to recover their remains sometimes seem to come to life again. And these reawakenings constitute some of the most mysterious phenomena recorded in the annals of cyber-science.

Case in point: I was pursuing ancient pages of, a famous site in the annals of the Internet era, that were captured by the Internet archive back in 1999. My intention was to try to understand what exactly it was about this site which convinced Wall Street brokers to buy $30 million of its stock in one day.

My eyes were drawn to a extraordinary temporal anomaly which manifested itself in the site's date stamp. Low and behold, like some free-floating, still-viable piece of flotsam which had freed itself from the downward motion of a doomed ship, the date stamp read: "May 21: 2005."

"Good lord," I exclaimed. " is alive! ALIVE!"

Excited by this discovery, I quickly inspected's captured pages from 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.

Alas, there was no trace of the still-active date stamp on these later site captures. Nor, by 2004, was there any trace of; only a sterile capture of a site called Voiceglo, a URL to which, destroyed, had been redirected.

TheGlobe's ghostly, still viable date stamp, for reasons unknown to science, continues to tick on in only one location in time. It has chosen, or rather, it has been chosen to live in only one place: before theglobe's IPO, before the terrible disintegration of theglobe's empire-building aims, before the stock tanked, before its founders dispersed to the ends of the earth.

Day after day,'s date stamp ticks on, obediently keeping up with us, hidden, despised, ignored, but reliable as ever, in fact, more reliable than anything ever associated with It is a miracle, a small one perhaps, but irrefutable proof that locked deep within the Internet's darkest tomb, a single candle burns everlasting.

May it burn forever to light the Web's passage, through destiny to dust.

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