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.

August 01, 2007

Video Memories of Den.Net: The Darkest Moment in the History of Web 1.0

Video Memories of Den.Net: The Darkest Moment in the History of Web 1.0
An "anything goes attitude" clearly prevailed at Web 1.0 video sites back in the late 1990s. Web Video was the next big thing, and so the young and smooth-skinned gathered there in droves to taste of the new computer-enabled Narcissism which today is enshrined in the form of multi billion dollar properties such as YouTube and MySpace.

In New York, the hot video streaming employment action was at, where Josh Harris presided over hedonistic parties which recalled, if not recreated the spirit of New York's lost Plato's Retreat sex club. But in LA, hedonism wasn't merely recalled: it was practiced, flesh-on-flesh, right out in the open, where the cameras could see it and the servers could stream it, and the place therefore to work was Den.Net. Here, a large staff of teenagers worked in a state of anarchy to produce original TV shows for the Internet. And Marc Collins Rector was their King, their Bacchus, their Colonel Kurtz.

Collins Rector, who raised 72 million dollars to fund, spent amply, enjoying himself along the way while blew through its money on the way to an IPO that never happened. After resigning as CEO amid rumors of sexual abuse of his staff, he fled the country in 2000 but was picked up in Spain in 2002 and returned to New Jersey, where he subsequently plead guilty to transporting five minors across state lines to have sex with him.

Den.Net was the most egregiously-managed Web 1.0 company imaginable. One of the best accounts of what life was like there was written by Matt Welch, who worked there briefly in its final days. Welch writes:

I'm guessing we will look back at DEN 10 years from now as a symbol of an era that will then seem unreal -- when any old teevee idiot could spout New Media cliches at least five years out of date, put together a staff of sycophants and plotters, and be rewarded by investors with $65 million to waste on 12 months of Webcasting, all because people back then placed monster bets on business buzzwords rather than on the people or products pretending to operate by them.

I could not agree more.

Which brings us to the video embedded below: a 7-minute promo for Den.Net's programs made in 1999. Den.Net's lineup included "Aggro Nation," "Confidential," "Dented," "Direct Drive," "Frat Ratz," "Hip Hop Massive," "Fear of a Punk Planet," "Redemption High," and "Tales from East LA." These crude, ugly shows tell us a lot about the kind of message that Collins Rectors and his fellow executives were sending to Den.Net's young staff: make whatever you want, cater to the lowest common denominator, the grosser it is the better it is, etc. Take a look for yourself and tell me if you have ever seen content more unconsciously reflective of the collective descent into animality which we now know was happening to the entire group. In a Spenglerian sense,'s staff, many of whom appear in this video have already "become what they beheld."

Pay special attention to "Redemption High," a nightmarish series involving an evil "Instructor" at a high school who promises to "have his way with the boys." One must conclude that the "Instructor" was a dramatized proxy for Collins-Rector himself, who as CEO wielded similar power over's young staff. This is chilling stuff: a real-life horror movie.

None of's content is pretty to watch, and this video is not for the faint of heart. But it provides essential documentation of one of the darkest moments in the history of the New Economy. Without seeing it, you will never understand what really happened at

As far as Matt Welch's bewailing of the fact that "people back then placed monster bets on business buzzwords" back in 1999, we haven't really advanced. The buzzwords may have changed, but the scam is the same. And it's amazing how many corporations, including the big brands that booked ad space on Den.Net, including Ford (which became one of's "Charter Sponsors"), Pepsi, Microsoft, Dell, and Pennzoil, continue to underwrite this kind of crap content without even considering how much it necessarily debases those who create it.

The spirit of Den.Net isn't dead, my friends. It lives on in the cancerous cloud of UGC, where puerile, sexist, juvenile sensibilities dominate. That which brought about Den.Net can never be defeated, nor even contained for long. It is an ancient disease springing from the most unreachable recesses of humanity's dark heart.

The Horror... The Horror...

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Video Memories of was a truly notorious dotcom that overestimated demand for its instant grocery delivery service, overspent on infrastructure, and overpaid its CEO, George Shaheen, who walked away from WebVan's 2001 bankruptcy with an agreement to pay him $375,000 for the rest of his life. Investors, especially those who paid up to $25 to buy shares when WebVan when it went public in 1999, soon saw these shares decline to $0.15.

Think about those investors as you watch the WebVan commercial below, which seems to celebrate mindless violence as its protagonist rips apart a grocery store. We can only imagine that those investors would wish the same kind of violence to be visited against those who engineered WebVan's spectacular fall from dotcom superstar to feckless bum.

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Glish.Com, Last Updated in 2004, Wins "4 Ghosties" Award

Glish.Com, Last Updated in 2004,  Wins, located at the domain, was a site authored by Eric Costello, a New York-based Web developer. Its purpose was general, in Costello's words, Glish was "where I go to write...about my life, my work, my kids, my computers etc etc.." The site got a strong boost in March of 2001 when it was featured in Blogger's "Blogs of Note" area and it clicked along at a regular pace until the Spring of 2003, when its entries grew erratic.'s final entry is from February 2004.

While doesn't suffer from any immediately discernible bitrot (all its images load quite nicely), there are enough broken links on its home page to immediately qualify it for Ghost Sites' "4 Ghosties" Award (Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay).

Awarded 4 Ghosties:
4 Ghostie Award


Holy Weblog Gives Up the Ghost

Holy Weblog Gives Up the Ghost
The Holy Weblog, located at the domain, ran from March 2002 to May of 2006. Its purpose was to poke fun at various abuses of faith, theology, and religion, and it was faithfully updated every few days. But by the Spring of 2006, the Holy Weblog's author began suffering from a badcase of BBS (Blog Burnout Syndrome); he wrote: "I have found myself profoundly bored and having to force myself to surf and blog for this site. Besides, the stupid things people do in God's name just piss me off now. I just don't have it in me anymore to poke fun at them."

BBS has burned out many a good Blog, and it's one of the most prevalent psychological syndromes afflicting content producers today. It can also afflict readers who, after deciding that 90 percent of the content on Blogs is self-referential crap, decide to limit their content selection to three or four online newspapers and abandon the Blogs they had once been addicted.

Awarded 3 Ghosties:

DotZine.Com, Last Updated in 2002, Wins "3 Ghosties" Award

DotZine.Com Wins 3, located at the domain, was an attempt to publish a small-format magazine specifically for the Palm and Pocket PC mobile platforms. By producing "short articles and reviews by clinically-diagnosed attention deficit disorder victims," the hope was that the user would "laugh, cry, and think before those elevator doors open!" was last updated in 2002, which might qualify it for inclusion for a 5 Ghostie Award, but it's so well-preserved that we're going to give it 3 Ghosties (Site is Dead But Well-Preserved). It looks as fresh as the day it was launched; even the DotZine Pocket PC Emulator (which launches a small window to show you how the content would look on a Palm) still works.

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