January 21, 1998

by Steve Baldwin

What do the Nation of Islam, the Association of Libertarian Feminists, and the Promise Keepers have in common? Each of these activist groups maintain enormous stockpiles of incredible, time-warping Ghost Pages that haven't been updated in years.

Should we be alarmed by these hidden arsenals of rusty rhetoric? Does the passage of time defuse the ideology encased in these dumpsters of ancient HTML, or could these old tracts be re-armed and redeployed in a crisis? Until Ghost Site's HTML Inspectors gain full access to these sites, our Skeleton Crew sleeps in 4-hour shifts.

On a lighter note, we'd like to raise a toast to Ghost Site's small but dedicated army of Dead Site Hunters. Without your contributions - your moth-eaten bookmarks, horror tales of New Media projects gone terribly awry, and other anecdotes and artifacts of Net decay, we'd have become dust many months ago.

Until Ghost Sites can more meaningfully thank you (i.e. shower you with cash, T-Shirts, coffee mugs, etc.), we humbly offer you this Special Issue, in which just about every dead URL was exhumed by you - our loyal readers.

Here's to you, reader and Ghost Site Hunter - your contributions are well beyond the call of duty, safe surfing, and quite possibly sanity!


Robin Mayhall has an interest in advertising and marketing, so it was natural that she bookmarked PowerAgent last summer. This lavishly appointed, sprawling site touted a new "one-to-one", agent-driven, gee-whiz shopping service guaranteed to wow web marketers and consumers when it launched in the Fall of 1997.

But Mayhall noticed something terribly odd when she surfed back to PowerAgent in early 1998, and saw the "Coming Fall 1997" GIF again. And her mouse hand began to shake in fear when she clicked on the links to PowerAgent's Management and Sales Team and saw them splinter into pieces. What terrible disaster had happened here?

After a bit of digging, Ghost Sites came across an ominous article in a September issue of Advertising Age hinting that PowerAgent's investors might be having second thoughts about coughing up the $20 Million necessary to get PowerAgent out of drydock. Other gloomy anecdotal evidence suggested that the worst might indeed have happened - that the suitcases of cash, if they ever arrived, were too late to revive the PowerAgent site from its endless sleep.

Ghost Sites doesn't purport to know what PowerAgent is worth, or whether it will ever wake from its coma. We can only ask: what the heck's the matter with venture capitalists today? Isn't $20 Million a fair price to pay for PowerAgent's excellent collection of Retro 1950's graphics?

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Association of Libertarian Feminists, The Million Man March (1995), The Promise Keepers' "Stand in the Gap" March on Washington (1997)

When Liz Linton, of Sweet Briar College, tipped us that the Association of Libertarian Feminists site had been abandoned, she opened up a troublesome can of worms.

As suspected, ALF is stone dead (the site's last update occurred in August 1996, shortly before its webmaster, author Joan Kennedy Taylor, gave up on it to pursue a more rewarding career on the lecture circuit).

But Linton's tip put us in a quandary - if Ghost Sites slammed Libertarian Feminists, weren't we morally obligated to say a few words about how men were royally mucking the Net up with their male-oriented HTML rubbish? So after a bit of digging we came up with a small bit of verifiable proof that site negligence is indeed a trans-gender issue.

Witness the registration page from the Nation of Islam's Million Man March Information Center. What are we to make of the urgent call to register for an event that came and went 25 months ago? With all due respect, Mr. Farrakhan, a small bit of atoning is in order here.

And how about those Promise Keepers? What are we to make of a "live" image from the PK march whose frozen date stamp reads Oct 4, 1997:18:56:53. Really, Mr. McCartney - this moldy page made me want to break down and cry!

Unfortunately, all too many activist sites (left, right, or whatever) seem to base their concept of a web site on the "floating billboard" model: a disembodied, soulless, one-way clump of HTML that stays up forever. Unless activists become more active in keeping their sites current, my bet is that the next revolution will leave them all in the dust.

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved

Movie View

Mark W. Evans stubbed his browser on the corpse of Movie View - one of the most severely damaged sites we've seen. Movie View, in an example of extremely wishful thinking, proclaims itself "constantly changing and developing and with every change we aim to improve this site".

Predictably, the only half-hearted sign of change/development we saw appears on the site's U.S. Top 10 Page, where the webmaster's cryptic instruction "Rufus to Provide Copy" appears in a final note of desperation.

But Rufus, like Godot, never did show up to provide the golden film reviews that might have put Movie View on the map, and the site sank beneath the waves in 1996 with a full cargo of empty framesets.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

Your MoM

From Mike Schmidt comes news that the site known as Your MoM has fetched its last file. To their credit, the unfortunates who ran Your Mom were prescient enough to offer Posterity a modest, self-penned obituary: "For those of you who haven't noticed, Your MoM has been dead for the last two years. Feel free to enjoy what is left, but don't expect anything new."

Enjoying Your MoM, however, is a tall order. I suspect that this execrably pre-adolescent, post-literate site is really the product of a cadre of calculating grownups eager to cash in on what Old Media types used to call "Youth Culture" (they now call it "Net Culture"). If so, Your MoM is just the latest adaptation of the same evil youth exploitation impulses which, in their prior analog incarnations, earlier generations lavishly-produced works by David Cassidy, Menudo, New Kids on the Block, and lately, Hanson.

A bad kidrock song goes by in three minutes, but a bad kidweb site is forever. As we all know, trash like Your MoM tends to become as permanent as Mount Rushmore, which really isn't fair to the kids (who will someday have to explain this site to their first employer).

(Note: Your MoM is a small crumbling part of a much vaster, largely decrepit teen megasite known as TAPOnline, which Ghost Sites hopes to cover in more detail in future issues.)

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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 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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