October 3, 1996

by Steve Baldwin

The web has been bashed as a godless postmodern medium, but a recent spate of miraculous site resurrections suggests the opposite: the Supernatural at Work.

How else to explain the spectacular reincarnation of a dead site like Web Review, which roared back to life with a Bacchanalian re-launch party in San Francisco. And Pathfinder's own OJ Central, moribund for months -- why does it now hum with news of the civic trial? Even Valujet's planes are flying again - and its new web site looks, well, surprisingly airworthy.

Who, or what, is "re-animating" these dead sites? Is it genuine Redemption or a sinister plot to replace the "souls" of these sites with ActiveX. Please stay tuned -- in the meantime, here's this week's dead sites: with any luck at all, they'll have the good sense to stay dead. Oh, and in our very next issue, Ghost Sites will launch its Halloween Special - please check in: I promise you a very scary time.

The Holden Caulfield Server

Whenever I feel oppressed by the phoniness of the world, a few moments with The Holden Caulfield Server would jolt me out of my blues. I'd simply click a "submit" button and an inspired quote from J.D. Salinger's memorably screwed-up teenager would pop onto my screen -- a perfect use of web technology to enhance an old book and make it compelling for today's troubled cyberteens.

Early this year, however, reclusive author Salinger pressured Luke Seeman to kill the site or face an expensive copyright infringement suit. Yeah, Salinger was right to defend his copyright -- but the whole sad affair makes me want to paraphrase Holden: "In every info superhighway I've gone to, all the intellectual property bastards stick together."

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Jef's Nude of the Month

Think you're going to make a mint selling porn on the net? Hah! It's more likely that you'll be driven into the poorhouse, especially if your ISP charges you by the megabyte. Witness the cautionary tale of Jef Poskanzer, whose nudes were so popular that the Well was about to start charging him $750 per month if the popular nudes stayed online. They didn't, Poskanzer is now shopping for a cheaper ISP, and all you thrill-seekers can always check out The Louvre if you're in a lusty mood.

Chris Stamper is credited with this find. He can be reached at Stamper.Com.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Way: Gopherspace

As my colleague Chris Stamper notes, Gopherspace has been fatally injured by the rise of the Web, search engines and other info-gimmicks. Try it yourself: go to "The Way" and click on any of the venerable gophers which used to offer such a wealth of information. At least half of them are dead: the others seem frozen in 1995 or before.

What's left in Gopherspace? To quote Stamper, "old Hotwired press releases, Lubavitcher tracts, and obscure syllabi from the 1993 Bard Physics department. It's sad but true. The crypt of Gopherspace makes the web's ghost sites look up to date."

Of course, the death of Gopherspace means the death of Archie, Veronica, and Jughead, too, but I find this latter topic much too painful to discuss.

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Site is Dead, shows Advanced Decay

The Mentos FAQ

Certain Net fads spread like wildfire and then come to a screeching halt: witness the moribund Mentos FAQ page, which added its last morsel of Mentos-memorabilia in November of 1995. Why these artificial mints became such a fevered subject of discussion is beyond me -- nor can I explain why everyone suddenly packed up and stopped writing about Mentos.

I suspect that demonstrating a comprehensive knowledge of Mentos suddenly became decidedly uncool on the West Coast, or some other artificial food came along to steal the conversational fire. In any case, I can only hope that the prestigious UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, which hosts this site, will commission an academic study committee to achieve some closure on this issue.

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved

Sovereign Seven

This odd little site, based on a DC Comics series, is a real collector's item that's been buried deep within Pathfinder for almost a year. Created by talented web designer Matt Menko (unrelated to the artificial mint) Sovereign Seven was launched with great fanfare and left to slowly sink into oblivion.

This is a strange site laced with major web nostalgia: Where else can you enjoy authentic server-push animation, scanned-in covers, a flaky and somewhat dysfunctional interactive "maze" game.

I doubt this site will ever be as valuable as a 1941 Superman First Edition, but I'd recommend copying this site to your archive as soon as possible. In 50 years, copies of this site will be quite rare, and they're not making any more of them.

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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 Steve_Baldwin@hotmail.com.

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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