March 15, 2001

by Steve Baldwin

The Web is a future-oriented medium that's "Orwellian" in the sense that it systematically self-deletes all traces of its past. Consequently, it is likely that future historians will have a terribly difficult time making sense of our era, because so very few original digital artifacts of our recent era (1995-2000) will remain in, say, the year 2020. As George Santayana so memorably noted, "those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it"; this exhibit - The Museum of E-Failure - is an attempt to save as many artifacts of our cyber-history as possible, so that history can learn from our generation's mistakes, and not repeat them. It is also an attempt to come to grips with the Web's odd aesthetic of 1995-2001 - call it "CyberKitsch".

A commercial note: an outsourced designer at mpxreview created a design for the Museum of E-Failure's Dead Dot-Bomb Mousepad. As the copy says, "you can roll your mouse over these logos in exactly the same fashion that reality employed to crush the companies they once represented".

These pads are $15 at the Ghost Sites Store - I bought one myself, and I think they look pretty sharp and provide excellent mouse traction.

Awards this month for Outstanding Webleological Achievement using the Ghost-o-Meter go to: g3m5tar, hesby, BWind, mzarnosky, lincoln, renee, kidrockfan, rnorton, pbruder, maxibia, ruchirp, ProfOwl, DFIFE, nilesh_acharya, a_nilesh, tmorgan, mchakrabarty, mgmadden, gypsy, christ, brian_patrick00, ==*lucas-teamclermont*== , cornponecaller, and other true archeologists of digital detritus!

New Dot-Bomb Screenshots
(uploaded 3/15/2001)
This update was compiled from screen shots taken between 1/1/01 and 3/15/01. Note: not all of these sites are "dead", in the sense of causing a "This Page Cannot Be Displayed" message to be shown to the user. But all are endangered, so an effort was made to record them before they are "unplugged".
sky web

Museum of E-Failure
Permanent Collection

(uploaded 1/29/2001)

24/ (original Sidney Schamburg-era, pre-SafetyTips site)
couch, the

buy a museum of e-failure mousepad, always in stock at the ghost sites store


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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