September 30, 2000

by Steve Baldwin

So many e-commerce sites have disappeared so quickly that Web preservationists are deeply worried that a large, irreplacable chunk of the 1999-era Internet - that part of it formerly bristling with all manner of marvelous B2B, B2C, and wacky content ventures - has already disappeared from the Net.

Few will mourn the passing of these look-alike catalog sites. Still, the culling of the dotcom herd represents a loss to Web history. Are not Web sites - even humble E-tailing projects - our generation's equivalent of cave painting? Do these failed workhorses of commerce deserve to go to the scrapper's torch without a dignified death? How can we expect people of the future to understand the wild, irrationally optimistic spirit of our times if we fail to save even one lousy little screenshot of sites like Boo, Pseudo, Home,, DEN, or

You can help us preserve artifacts of the Golden Age of E-Commerce. If you've taken a screen shot of a dead or endangered e-commerce site (just hit ALT-PRINTSCRN and paste into PaintBrush), please send the bitmap on to, and we'll add it to our collection. If we get enough screen shots, we'll develop an online exhibit modeled after The Pathfinder Museum.

Correction Department: Falchion Beta sends word that his site,, a project we identified as a Ghost Site back in 1999, is now back among the living. He writes:

"It's now being hosted on my very own computer and cable connection. It just goes to show you that if you want some space out on the web, you have to go ahead and create some of your own, rather than bitching and moaning about everything."

Amen, Brother.

The Info-Supercollider

Ghost Site correspondent Larry Weiss has found one of the most intriguing Ghost Sites we've seen - his message follows:

"The 'Info-Supercollider' site at is still active, but its database of URLs is sort of fossilized these days. That makes it a perfect place to dig up Ghost Site material. The idea of the Info-Supercollider was to create a unique page on every Reload of materials from a "random" set of unrelated URLs and see what happens. Kind of a high-energy collision between a bunch of sites. Anyway, when you hit "Reload" today, you get scraps of very old Web sites, some of which fit the bill for Ghost Sites"

As Weiss reports, using the Info-Supercollider's crashing collection of cyberjunk yields a highly fragmentary, atavistic pastiche of old Web matter. Strange JPEGs loom out of the darkness - as do newsgroups devoted to archaic RPG games. Occasionally, strange authentication windows spontaneously appear when from URLs that have migrated behind firewalls.

Don't miss this odd, dynamically-deranged collection of deconstructed HTML randomly served up from the depths of the Web's primordial databanks.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

The Wild Wild West

Ghost Sites correspondent Ron Morris reports that the official Warner Bros. site for "The Wild Wild West" has been badly damaged by the ravages of time.

Morris' account of the highlights of this "ossified" site include:

"Inscrutable navigation - each section may open a regular window, a medium-sized scrollable window, or a tiny window. In a minute or so you'll have half a dozen odd windows cluttering the screen". Morris also observes that the site's "Studio Store" area contains no Wild Wild West-related items to buy, and notes that the copy in the site's "Partners" section reads: "The promotions are now over! Go see the movie! It's a whole new west!"

Few will miss this site, which like so many Shockwave-rich sites produced by overzealous Hollywood Web designsers, attempts to provide a "cinematic" Web experience that's just an embarassing waste of time and bandwidth.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


Here's a disturbing instance of an undermaintained "Guestbook Area" coming back to haunt its creator. Take a close look at, a small-scale site billing itself as "The Shoemaker's Home" whose Welcome Page announces that "This page was last revised 10/27/97 by Buford J. Collins."

Unfortunately, (and here's the rub) the site's Guestbook Area has remained quite active during the last three years of this site's slumber, and it's dutifully recorded what has in recent months turned into a cesspool of scathing comments about TrueFit's dearth of fresh content. Example:

"I am disappointed with your site. I could not find anything relevant to my research. I am currently studying Shoes design, and the only thing I could see in your site was, 'what makes a shoe comfortable, Size and Width'. Are you promoting your book? Are you a shoemaker by trade? If you want to share your thoughts with other people, please make them available to us."

(This user is alluding to the fact that a link from the Welcome Page to The Enclopedia of Shoemaking doesn't work (its target is a rudimentary test page).

The lesson here is clear: if you want to let a site die a peaceful death or sink into a happy coma, get rid of your "Guestbook" area first.

Thanks to Keith Fehn for finding this site.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

The American Jerk

A man who will only identify himself as "a man who loves political humor" writes:

"Ironically I found this site the same day that I found yours in Oct 1999 on The Drudge Retort. This site is, a very funny political site that is no longer in existence due to money problems. The last posted date is May 1st, 2000, and the authors say they have no intention to re-establish it because they're broke. I really loved this site, but at the same time I feel sorry for the authors. I hope they come into some quick cash and re-establish the site, but until then it is a Ghost Site that is very slowly decomposing."

Fortunately, the American Jerk's authors, Rob Reuter and Paul Marino, took the time to archive the site's back issues, and also to provide a full explication of the causes leading to their site's demise:

"The effort required to produce this magazine as we have for the past year has been tremendous, requiring no less than two to six hours a day, after work and on weekends, for three of the four weeks in a month... However, we have discovered that there are only three ways to attract the kind of readership needed to make enough money to even break even on a Web site such as this: garner critical acclaim from mainstream press and Web sites, advertise like hell, or agree to trade links with every similar Web site you can find."

We applaud this site's authors for giving their project a simple, dignified funeral. Anyone thinking of closing down their Web site (and God knows, that's a lot of us these days) could benefit from following their example.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

Kraft Military Sales

Erik T. Hansen presents a strong case that that the virtual commissary of Kraft Military Sales has been infested with cyber-mold. Evidence that this site is abandoned include:

The copymark on the home page reading: "© 1997 Kraft Foods, Inc. All rights reserved."

The statement on the home page: "This site is best experienced using the Microsoft Explorer 3.01 or Netscape Navigator 3.0 browsers for PC. Or by Macintosh users with the Microsoft Explorer 3.0 Beta 1 or Netscape Navigator 3.01."

The statement in the "Products, Prices, and Promotions" section reading: "Prices in effect March 1-31, 1997".

Other signs of neglect include what Hansen calls "an old style" page design, including "millitary-esque" MIDI-music that can't be turned off", and the lack of an e-mail address on the site's "Contact" Page - just a toll-free 800 number.

How did Hansen stumble onto Kraft's rusty messkit? By entering the term "Velveeta", at Kraft Military Sales was the third best choice returned by the search engine.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

The Internet Help Desk

Here's another one from Ron Morris.

The Internet Help Desk was the brainchild of Amy L. Ward. Its avowed purpose was to be "a free service designed to offer help to both beginning and advanced Internet users." Back in 1996, the site's thoughtfully presented, well-written content was garnering rave reviews from many important organs of the computer press.

Today, however, the Internet Help Desk is silent, leaving historians to pore over its outdated "Troubleshooting" section. Many will certainly wonder how early Homo Internetus was able to cope with Windows 3.1 General Protection Faults, Netscape 1.1 (16-bit version) bugs, and Internet Explorer 1.0 idiosyncrasies.

Of special interest are the site's "Author's Bookmarks" and "Guides and FAQs" sections. Here, you'll find a stack of dusty links to early Web resources, some of which no longer exist at their indicated URLs.

Although this site's content is ancient, it's still valuable, especially for newbies seeking information on basic e-mail snooping techniques.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Official Whitney High School Web Site

Ron Morris also sends word that The Official Whitney High School Website has been in a state of suspended animation for a long, long time. He writes:

"I wrote the webmaster once, asking about it, and he said he made it when he was a student and had to sign a paper relinquishing ownership of it to the school district. It's part of the ABC Unified School District, which itself is a missing page. Of special note are the links to former students ( with such descriptions as "Class of 1993. Page under construction."

Other embarassingly decayed elements here include a missing Academic Calendar, an ancient "What's New" page, and a bad link to the school's Faculty and Staff page.

This one gets an F.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

The Lost Cache of Pathfinder Pages

Chris Stamper - a longtime friend of Ghost Sites and fellow Pathfinder alumnus, reports that an unusually large clump of Pathfinder-related debris has accumulated on the servers of the Federal Trade Commission. This material was evidently supplied to the FTC as part of a mid-1997 "Privacy Workshop" designed to appease regulators' anger about the way personal information was being handled by commercial Web sites.

The "Lost Cache" contains both a mind-numbing collection of Time-Warner "Privacy Statements" and a fascinating collection of old Pathfinder graphics, including home pages from Pathfinder and other Time-Warner properties, including the main WB site, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and DC Comics. As far as we know, these are the only actual screen recordings that exist of these abandoned content areas.

Those interested in perusing more antique artifacts from Pathfinder are invited to inspect The Pathfinder Museum - an unofficial historical site dedicated to perserving the memory of the Web's tragic proto-portal.

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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

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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