August 19, 2000

by Steve Baldwin

Welcome back, ye Sons and Daughters of Bit Rot. Set here a spell, lay down your browser, and listen to a tale of rust, dust, and cyber-mortality. Ponder the Web's lost dawn of miracle and wonder, folly and delight. Sing of great Web sites sucked under by the clutching currents of cyber-indifference.

Yes, friends, it's time for another monthly installment of Ghost Sites of the Web - your personal graveside guide to the lost, unburied, and unmourned Web sites that Time Forgot. I'm Steve Baldwin - your sepulcheral Ghost Host.

Ask not for whom the Web Counter Tolls - it tolls for me and thee!

Times Square 2000

Ghost Sites correspondent DrLorenz identified this moribund monster: a slow-loading, banner-waving, hyperbolic "Official Millenium Site" that's clearly outlived its usefulness to the 21st Century.

Only true masochists need to put themselves through the emotional torpor generated by its tiresome countdown splash screen. Even those pragmatists choosing to skip this awful ersatz Chron Job will find themselves waist-deep in another ridiculously outdated, bandwidth-sucking page laced with hundreds of useless tables, advrtisements, and other garish graphical flourishes.

This mouldering site ranks with the most hideously overblown cyber-stinkers produced by Hollywood. Steer clear of this digital morass, forget millenial madness, and get on with your life.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

Clerks: The Cartoon

Doug Sheppard notes that ABC/Miramax has recently produced a Ghost Site to accompany one of its defunct animated TV shows. He writes:

"Remember Clerks, the funny indie movie by Kevin Smith? Remember Clerks, the not-quite-as-funny- but-some-still-liked-it animated series by Kevin Smith, that got yanked after two episodes?

Let's see how long they can keep promising that next week's episode (it's "every Wednesday on ABC") is the one that was scheduled to air on June 14th."

Although Clerks: The Cartoon is dead, Kevin Smith's own site,, is very much alive, and Smith is evidently not letting ABC's rejection go unanswered. Recently, he created an online game called "Poke an ABC Executive in the Eye".

Sure it's stupid, but so is trying to work in television.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

eTopia Communications

According to its Web page, eTopia Communications "creates free interactive, web based virtual offices and classrooms for businesses and educational institutions."

OK - no problem there. But why has eTopia's site not been updated since 12/06/97? Why are the links to its Virtual Office area, Virtual Classroom area, and Online Discussion area all broken?

We can't begin to explain the exact nature of the tragedy befalling eTopia's site. Nor can we explain why its stillness diminishes our mood, destroys our faith in distance learning, and makes us question whether all etopias are in fact dystopias.

Thanks to wflinstone for this Ghost Siting.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

This obscure hunk of noise (AKA "Digitally Incorrect") ground to a halt way back in 1997, but at least its webmaster had the good sense to explain why he let it die: He writes: "I don't really know, but right now, I'm too busy and can't find the energy to keep writing columns on multimedia."

What's left in the wake of the webmaster's neglect is eight months' worth of free-ranging commentary on yesterday's multimedia fads, a dusty Web review section, and a moth-ridden "Kultur" column.

We can't say what value future historians will place on such materials, but can only hope that they see considerably more significance than we ourselves can appreciate right now.

Thanks to thomrr for this Ghost Sites tip.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

Deep Elum - Dallas, Texas

Ghost Sites correspondent Paul T. Riddell sends word that a once bustling regional site has gone to rack and ruin:

"The Deep Ellum district of Dallas used to have quite a history, as it at one time had more of a reputation as a jazz center than Memphis or even New Orleans. The area declined after World War II, but saw a revival as an artists' neighborhood in the mid-Eighties. As with the East Village and all of San Francisco, Deep Ellum is now a yuppie playground, full of overpriced lofts, horrendously overpriced restaurants, and a police presence that screams "If you're not an MBA, we don't want you here." On Friday and Saturday nights, the area resembles the first ten minutes of George Romero's "Day of the Dead".

Anyway, the zombies walking through the streets aren't the only thing dead around here: I went to the official Deep Ellum site looking for information on the Deep Ellum Film Festival, and found only a Ghost Site. The site still proudly lists the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, which happened back in April (of 1999), and about a third of the bands listed in its "Band listings" are now defunct.

Have fun with this one: if you thought you heard shrieking before, wait until the crew in charge of this finds out that their site is about as relevant as its subject."

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

Arab News Online

Credit Ghost Site correspondent J. Bruce Veale with this finding:

"The Arab News is an English newspaper in Saudi Arabia and I used to read it (for about the same reasons as one keeps probing at a cavity: it hurts but you can't help it).

Anyway, at the time I returned from Saudi Arabia in 1996, the site was 'soon to be completed' and as far as I can see, nothing has been done for the last 4 years. Sort of on-par though for the Saudis -- the work required with keeping a Web site up to date is just not something they would be interested in after the initial rush of creating the site's framework. The site's Email link works but no one seems to be checking it or at least, I've never had a reply."

Although our own investigation into the bitrot at Arab News Online doesn't completely support Mr. Veale's claim that the site has remained unchanged for four years, its "What's New" page isn't exactly fresh - its most recent entry dates from February, 2000.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

After The Bug

"After The Bug" was an experimental serial written by Alexander Besher that appeared prominently on the servers of the San Francisco Chronicle in 1998 - back when the Y2K Bug most completely engaged the popular imagination.

This work of post-apocalpytic fiction followed "five 20- and 30- something roommates living in a three-level Victorian house on Potrero Hill in San Francisco as the (Y2K) "Bug" turns their world topsy-turvy." After just 10 episodes, however, the plug was pulled, leaving After The Bug a moribund, half-completed wreck of a literary work.

We hope that Mr. Besher was paid a lot of money to pen this opus, and we hope that he's moved on to better things. Being a fiction writer in these reality-obsessed times is difficult enough without having to see one's incomplete manuscript cruelly laid out for all to world to see.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

Take Five

Speaking of disastrous Web-based serial projects, here's a youth-crazed cyber-serial that's so old and moldy that its teenage subjects are probably well on their way to becoming grandparents.

Housed on Planet Oasis (a site that remains among the most bandwidth-unfriendly areas of the Web), this "teensploitation" site seems to have been built sometime in 1996 - certainly no later than 1997.

You thought High School was hell? Immerse yourself in this oddly-designed, hard to navigate, bandwidth-sucking monster for a few minutes. Cryptic, pointless and designed without any regard to even the most basic notions of usability, Take Five deserves a wide berth.

To borrow a favorite phrase of today's teenagers, "Don't Go There!"

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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?

(javascript required)

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

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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