August 22, 1996

by Steve Baldwin

As August's Dog Days blow a sweet smell of decay across the land, it's time once again to plunge into the forlorn world of web sites abandoned by their creators. Again, special thanks to everyone who emailed me Ghost Tips -- without this kind of support, I just couldn't get Ghost Sites out. And thanks to the Netly News Network, and BBC Radio 1, which both ran pieces on Ghost Sites.

So let's move on to Issue 3 - it's a big one -- if you're new here, you can browse Issue 1 and Issue 2 to read about dead sites we've reviewed before.

Mondo 2000

In some parallel universe, I'm sure that Mondo 2000 magazine has proudly vanquished Wired in the grim war for Bay Area mindshare. In reality, of course, Wired became the darling of West Coast E-Esthetes, burying Mondo 2000 last year.

But the incredibly garish Mondo 2000 web site soldiers on, frozen in a late 1995-world of large hedonistic frames. This is robotic web design at its worst: scary, impersonal, and bandwidth-hungry. For instant Net Nostalgia, check out Mondo 2000's back issues -- here you can sample tasty references to yesterday's celebrities, trends, and obsessions, but don't try to order a back issue of Mondo 2000 -- the site's order form is smashed and broken.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Babes on the Web

This crusty site boasts of having been written up in USA Today, Wired, Internet World, and the New Yorker. Why all the press? Apparently, some of the women which sitemaster Robert M. Toups listed in his master list of Internet "babes" didn't like the unwanted publicity much, and some accused him of "scaring women off the net" by building a site ready-made for stalkers. Toups, relishing all the sudden attention, promptly made the whole thing a cause celebe, taking cover under the First Amendment. The whole sorry mess collapsed in a cloud of Anti-Babes pages and anti-Toups diatribes.

Hanging around this dead site leads me to the depressing conclusion that men are definitely jerkier than woman, especially when they don't update their web pages. And Toups hasn't updated his since February 24, 1996.

(Thanks to Chris Stamper - who monitors the net gender wars -- for this tip).

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum


A tip from "Mr. Phlogiston", AKA Jason Salisbury, sent me racing over to bOING bOING - "a pop magazine for the techno-savvy" as fast as I could click. Apparently, Mark Frauenfelder, an Associate Editor at HotWired, "has been running the same articles and pictures since the start of the year". Phlogiston also claims that Frauenfelder was escaping detection by merely changing the site's date stamp from time to time. Could I check it out?

A quick check of bOING bOING -- date stamped August 6, 1996 -- revealed some suspiciously ghostlike clues. Isn't lambasting Senators Exon and Helms old hat? Why is Frauenfelder still promoting a book that he published last year? How old were The Amazing Parker Quintuplets? (Phlogiston swears they've been there since January).

Because I've got to be very careful here (HotWired's lawyers are truly dangerous), I'm going to give bOING bOING a single Ghost right now. If anyone can support Mr. Phlogiston's story, I'll up the ante. My gumshoe's intuition tells me that bOING bOING is dead, but my circumstantial evidence, plus the mere fact that Frauenfelder's HotWired biography page hasn't been updated for a year isn't enough to make me zip this body bag -- yet.


Site is Calling in Sick

PHATT!!! Site of the Day

Rap Music -- especially Wu-Tang Posse, Mobb Deep, and Scholly D -- is for some incomprehensible reason running amok in Germany, prompting sites like this one, which elevate mispellings to a form of high art. Unfortunately, Carsten Scheutz, who maintains this odd site and calls himself "The Godfather of Trash", has let the PHATT!!! site go to seed because of an extended hospital stay, and hasn't updated it since April. Perhaps someone else in the Homeland of Wagner will give him a hand.

In the meantime, das ist deine Ghost Site, dOOOde!

(thanks to Don Harlieb, who runs a site whose "Dumbster" section contains many interesting out-of-date links.)

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Site is Dead, shows Advanced Decay

WWW TV Bytes

Once in a while, you'll find a dead site that has actually been murdered, and that's the case with WWW TV Bytes. I fondly remember this site as a encyclopediac corpus of musical detritus, sporting classic TV themes from the Flintstones, the Twilight Zone, the Brady Bunch, and hundreds of others. Unfortunately, site creator Patrick Kenny, who claims on his home page that 5,000,000 people visited this site, had to take down the whole thing, thanks to nasty intellectual property lawyers who drove up and surrounded the University of Michigan AI Labs, waving cease and desist orders.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum


For a while, it seemed the coolest thing that you could do was build a Cool Site Of The Day rip-off, which seems to be this dead site's raison d'etre. But hunting down cool sites (or dead ones) is grueling work, and this Spring, "netgrrl", Wiretrap's webmaster, quietly went away, like Puff the Magic Dragon -- possibly to pursue something more grown up -- like Grad School.

Wiretrap's unfortunate departure leaves the door open for the real Cool Site Of The Day to become the Microsoft of Coolness on the web. I know for a fact that these guys rarely get out of their dinner tuxes nowadays.

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Site is Dead, shows Advanced Decay

World Wide Web Worm

Like a classic sports car with a bad case of underbody rust, the World Wide Web Worm sports a tattered bumper sticker announcing its well-earned "Best of 94" award. But there's still life in the Worm -- in fact, it loads fast, has no annoying ads, and its search results are for the most part comparable with other commercial search engines.

Best of all, when you search the Worm, you're probably all alone, instead of competing with thousands of other searchers for results. So while this worm might be old and ugly, it's still a good tunneler, and I'll be back again for some solitary searching.

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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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