January 18, 2000

by Steve Baldwin

Welcome back to your own monthly helping of the oldest, most archaic Web relics you're likely to find in one place. Someday, these digital dustballs will probably achieve "collectible status" (but we hope we're long dead by then). In the meantime, please enjoy your stroll through the graveyard of Cyber Decay, and say a prayer that your own site remains with the living for the foreseeable future.

For some odd reason, the number of tips coming through the Ghost-O-Meter spiked sharply during December, which lets us provide you with a healthy crop of fossilized Web junk this issue. Thank you all for your Dead Web Sitings!

The Media History Project

This official-looking project to provide a central clearinghouse for media historians and deep-thinking journalists seems to have fallen on hard times. Its "What's New" page dates from September, 1996, and the site blithely continues to solicit manuscripts for a January 1997 issue of the journal of the American Journalism Historians Association. The site's link to "Notable Book Reviews" is also badly broken.

The fact that so many Web-based history projects are going to seed is an almost unbearable irony that the press rarely talks about. Who shall chronicle history when the chronicler themselves lie in deathly slumber, I ask you?

Thanks to todoman for sending us news of the Media History Project's Big Sleep.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

The Home Cleaning Home Page

The Clorox Company was prescient enough to reserve the www.grease.com domain back in late 1995, but it's done very little with it in the last four years - the only thing here is a pastiche of familiar Clorox brands, including Liquid-Plumr, Tilex, SoftScrub, and other powerfully unforgettable dirt-battling chemicals.

This page looks so amateurishly put together that it's hard to believe it's the product of a world-class corporate conglomerate, and its "Coming soon: the wonderful world of Clorox Cleaning Products" rings hollow.

Formula 409? Try Formula 404!

Thanks to engorgedsafety for sending word of this dead site to us.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Infinite Faculty

This site, which hasn't been updated since late 1996, isn't a very good advertisement for Infinite Faculty Productions, a Web design company "comprised of a broad range of individuals: computer scientists, PhD's in English and philosophy, artists, and a few people in between".

It's hard to tell what caused this site to become unstuck in time, but it's possible that the planned "complete revamp" of its servers ran into some major technical glitches that the company is still trying to sort out. But I'd lay odds that the revamp never actually took place, which places this site among the many Web sites whose "under construction" periods stretch beyond the time required to build the Pyramids.

Thanks to anonymous for this Ghost Site Tip.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


Here's one of the most down-and-out honest Ghost Sites we've ever seen. Go to its home page and you'll simply read the following:

"this represents a failed project. i'm looking to recoup costs. if you are interested in using this domain for your project, please email want@tick.com."

What was Tick.com? A site about the sound of clocks? A Lyme Disease Awareness site? How much money was lost in building this site? Unfortunately, no record exists detailing the tragic story of this failed project, leaving us all to wonder at the greatness that might have been.

(Note: A companion site, tock.com, also bears many of the earmarks of a Ghost Site, but it's definitely survived the ravages of time better than tick.com. Go figure.)

Thanks to Peter Stern for pointing this site out to us.

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved

Dirae Magazine

Dirae Magazine was a San Diego-based online 'zine that launched in early 1999 and it only seems to have survived for about four weeks before succombing to the evil tides of entropy.

Direa seems to have been conceived as a general interest magazine along the lines of Slate or Salon (perhaps the biggest mistake aspiring Web publishers can make when designing an online magazine). Its expansive editorial mission (to cover "Sex, Politics, Culture, and Technology") evidently exceeded its resources, and it folded up shop back in April of 1999.

We have no idea what happened to Dirae's staff of 14 employees, but we hope they've found work elsewhere.

Thanks to dpeter508 for sending us news of Dirae's demise.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

WXMZ 106.3

Need more proof that Rock is Dead? Check out the moldy Web pages constructed by this Ohio-based "Classic Rock"-format radio station. Ghost Site correspondent RnR Is Cool provided a succinct analysis of the bitrot in an e-mail message:

Radio stations pride themselves in being up-to-the-minute, immediate providers of information. Except for this one. http://wxmz.somewhere.net has not been updated since June, a full six months ago. They still list a City Council meeting on their "Community" page for June 21, and the "Concerts" page is outdated. Not to mention the "New Stuff" page, with Scorpions, Styx, and Lenny Kravitz. In addition they no longer have the "All-Request Lunch Mania" as promoted on the home page.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

Lucid Super Dreams

Ghost Sites correspondent Randee Dawn sends word that this peculiar site has grown long in the tooth, and a quick inspection proves that advanced rigor mortis has indeed set in at Lucid Super Dreams: every link on its page is broken.

The demise of this odd, homegrown humor site (whose slogan, "World's Greatest Newspaper" slogan is somewhat reminiscent of the far more successful Onion) will probably not be mourned by many (and I'd be the last one to say that the world grew significantly darker when this site turned cold).

In death, however, its ugliness and sophistry looks almost stately (especially if you squint your eyes).

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


Is there no escaping the ghostly electronic wake left behind by the departed Dr. Frederick Lenz (whose own personal Ghost Site we've talked about at length in a past issue)?

Apparently not - Himalaya.com is another expensively produced, elaborately furnished multimedia shrine built by the good doctor to commemorate his "Surfing the Himalayas" and "Snowboarding to Nirvana". Here, you can send electronic postcards, download Lenz's instructional videos, read interviews - in short, you can do almost everything except communicate with any living human presence - this site is as dead as Dr. Lenz, which makes it one of the most hauntingly surreal experiences you're likely to find on the Web.

Thanks to someone who calls himself marcopolo for this tip.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum


You're on the web a lot. You've seen many a dead site. You've forgotten our email address... and you don't feel like coming back here to get it.

What do you do?

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The Ghost-o-Meter opens a small, movable window... if you've found a Ghost Site, fill in the blanks, fire it off, and go back to foolin' around. Its that easy.

You can also use this form:

What the ??!

Well, this is all very interesting, but what the heck is Ghost Sites anyway? Why devote a live site to Dead Sites?

If you're interested in this Ghost Sites thing, it is a project that I began in the summer of 1996 while I was working for Time-Warner's Pathfinder. Late in the evening of July 4th, while piloting a small craft across Long Island Sound, I had what only can be described as an epiphany.

From out of the depths came a cruel vision of the World Wide Web. It wasn't a friendly place - an innocent place of community, commerce and chat. It was a great and utterly pitiless electronic ocean that swallowed up sites, careers, and venture capital like a ravenous killer whale. Great sites - sites like Mecklerweb and iGuide - were going down with all hands. Great fortunes were collapsing and proud content sites lay wrecked on the bottom. No one seemed to care. The future was a vast abyss - who would record these days of New Media folly, disaster and despair?

Back on shore, but still haunted by this vision, I launched Ghost Sites as a modest attempt to document the great disappearing fleet of web sites sinking beneath the waves. This project briefly made me spectacularly famous, and then I was quickly, and completely forgotten.

By March of 1997, Ghost Sites had succumbed to the same deadly entropy that had settled over the Internet, and became a crewless wreck itself. For six cruel months, it drifted like a despised garbage barge, broke its keel in a summer squall, and finally washed up on Geocities.

On an icy November morning, Morbus boarded the wreck, inspected the damage, and offered the captain a safe harbor. The bilge pump was started, and the squealing, rusty hull lifted off the sands again. It soon arrived here - in the dark, unquiet waters of Disobey.Com.

If you want to see the article that made me briefly famous, check out Ghosts in the Machine. I became so famous because of this article that there were women lining up to see me - I felt like Elvis! But then... the fall from grace...

If you have a favorite rotting site that you'd like to mention, email me at Steve_Baldwin@hotmail.com.

Ghost Sites has appeared in a number of places including Time Magazine, ZDNet, The Netly News and more. For a list of all those we know of, as well as links to online counterparts, click here. You can also take a look at the limited edition t-shirt we once offered.

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