August 8, 1996

by Steve Baldwin

Welcome to the second issue of GHOST SITES OF THE WEB -- your graveside tour of abandoned web sites. I'd like to thank all who e-mailed me about Ghost Sites you've found: These tips have really helped our skeleton crew get out this new issue.

The Official Rolling Stones Web Site

A year ago, yes, this site was a clear leader, and among the first to promote streaming Java audio, Java games, and a rash of MBONE concerts. People used to actually crowd around PC-equipped cubes to look at this site! But now the Stones' famous tongue has turned gangrenous: The band's newest tour schedule is ancient, the press releases are moldy, and nothing else on this site appears to have changed since last November. The wholesale neglect is particularly evident in the site's interactive fiction area, where unrestrained idiocy now holds sway.

Can't Sun, or maybe Mick's manager, pull the plug on this thing? It's so old that it makes the band seem young.

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Site is Dead, shows Advanced Decay


Note: this link just points to a place holder -- read on to get the real story on MecklerWeb

Remember this one? MecklerWeb was the Web's first truly epic business fiasco, and the Byzantine reasons for its spectacular 1994 flameout are beyond the scope of this humble survey. But MecklerWeb's simultaneous launch/destruction set the precedent for other legendary site suicides such as MCI/Delphi. MecklerWeb's original mega-site -- conceived as a grandiose "Internet-based corporate communications and marketing system" -- is of course, long gone, but what keeps it alive is the fact that one of its visionary architects, Chris Locke, has thoughtfully preserved an archive of founding documents, including the incredibly dense press releases of MecklerWeb and its 26 high-tech partners. These documents, and a postmortem by Locke himself, are required reading for anyone attempting a serious history of business hubris on the WWW.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum


If Woodstock-94 had had the misfortune of happening a year later -- in 1995 -- I'm sure that the whole Web would now be clotted with fan pages, silly Woodstock e-zines, and rotting corporate sites devoted to the event. Thankfully, the Web really hadn't developed into an efficient huckstering tool when Woodstock-94 occurred, so the only official sites that live on are a bunch of puny gray pages that are appallingly amateurish. If you have any inclination to relive the silliness leading up to this grand non-event concert, spend a few minutes with Woodstock-94's breathless countdown pages. And thank your lucky stars that you missed the whole muddy thing.

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved

Boulder Weekly Online

It might be too early to proclaim this lively local Colorado journal dead, but missing eight weeks of updates doesn't bode well for any weekly. For my money, the left-leaning Boulder Weekly Online didn't have much to offer the world, although its earnest coverage of a local supermarket strike showed some real progressive passion. But seeing a one-person operation fail is always sadder than seeing an impersonal monolith go down. (Special thanks to Chris Stamper, who monitors both left and right-wing sites, for this tip).

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved

The Defunct Worldwide Publishing Consortium

It's rare that a dead web site comes right out and says, "Hey, I'm in a body bag!", but the Defunct WWPC site accepts its own death with a jaunty smirk. If fate had only dealt this consortium a kinder hand, I'm sure it would have made a fine standards-setting body -- the consortium was dabbling with heady topics like Economics of Flourishing in an All Digital World and The WWPC Experimental Digital Daily shortly before its demise. This unfortunate site is laced with human pathos: check out "Calendar of What Had Been Upcoming Events","What We Were Up To", and "How You Could Have Joined". It's too bad that the project's sponsors, which included Adobe, Agfa, Apple & Kodak, probably didn't shed any tears when the body bag was zipped tight.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Aftershock: Where Quake Awakes

At the very peak of this summer's worldwide Quake fury, one of the most intelligent private sites devoted to Quake news, hacks, and hints gave up the ghost. Why? According to webmaster Joost Schuur, he torpedoed Aftershock because updating the site meant spending "far too much time in front of a computer." (Hey Joorst, isn't that what Quake is FOR?) Schuur's decision to unplug Aftershock seems especially ill-timed in light of the fact that a competing Quake site, the Quake Stomping Grounds, recently started running commercial ads, a clear indication that there are big bucks to be made running well-trafficked Quake sites.

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved


It's probably unfair to expect that one of 1995's major film flops would still be associated with an active web site, (although other 1995 duds, such as Johnny Mnemonic, persist in the form of aging promo pages). But it's still a bit chilling to see the warning "This Site Has Been Archived" running below Kevin Costner's face like a building inspector's condemnation notice. A bunch of high-priced people worked on this site: If you're one of them, I've fished out the first page of the Waterworld interactive adventure so that you can review your work, grieve, and move on.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

TeleCircus San Francisco

TeleCircus -- a "homegrown art circus and sideshow" hosted by The Well -- is evidently an early interactive experiment that nobody had the common sense to take down after it outlived its usefulness. This graphics-rich site is as dead as a dodo -- even the copyright notices are from 1994. Trying to escape TeleCircus by following its links out to The San Francisco Digital Media Center doesn't help: the center's main image map is broken (which is always a bad thing to have at a Digital Media Center).

This is the kind of cute, information-poor, hypersmug site that deserves to expire. Please resist the temptation to click on any of TeleCircus's links: Perhaps the Well's webmasters will see their hits increase and revive it!

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved


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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