May 27, 1998

by Steve Baldwin

Ghost Sites would like to lower a termite-ridden gangplank to the good people from AOL who might be reading this column for the first time - welcome aboard, gang!

This issue, we've dredged up a heavier than usual load of dead Web sites which we hope will amuse, appall, and frighten the dickens out of you.

As usual, a healthy share of the digital phantoms featured in this issue have resulted from your dead site reports - for this, our sepulcheral research crew salutes you with a bony "thumbs-up"!

AT&T 1996 Olympic Games Site

This fly-specked site is a grim testament to Olympic endurance that's been chugging around an empty track for 21 pointless months. You can still play Shockwave-based Olympic games here, but we don't recommend watching the broken "live" camera focussed on Atlanta's Centennial Park, or trying to enter the site's contest (somebody won the Grand Prize almost two years ago).

You can, however, peruse "today's Olympic events" (a long-forgotten Little Feat concert) and admire fading photos of Budweiser Bud World, the Coca-Cola Pin-Trading Center, and General Motors' Century in Motion Pavilion. (What better way to commemorate Olympic achievement than by guzzling beer, cola, and high-octane gasoline?)

Want to protest this flabby brand of corporate-sponsored bit rot? Scrawl the Olympics '96 URL on your next AT&T long distance bill, and write "End the Olympic Madness" on your check.

Tell 'em the ghost of Jim Thorpe made you do it.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Encyclopedia Mozilla

With truckloads of Windows 98 diskettes on their way to consumers, Netscape's much-discussed air supply is dwindling to less than a quart, so perhaps it's time to raise a farewell glass to Mozilla, Netscape's endangered reptilian mascot.

Encyclopedia Mozilla - a spectral gallery of circa-1995 Mozilla images, shows Netscape's cartoon lizard preening, posing, and being cute. This poor green shlub is clearly oblivious to the fact that invisible Microsoft e-mail memos circulating in the dead of night had already set the exact date and time of his assassination.

Don't cry for Mozilla. Even if Netscape's browser share declines to single digits by August, we expect Mozilla will soon play a crucial role in resurrecting Netscape as a successful sweatshirt and stuffed animal manufacturer.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

1996: The Year the Net Exploded

Feeling nostalgic for over-hyped Web technologies of the past like IBM's Bamba, Metaworlds, and VRML? Want to get a preview of exciting Net events from December, 1996, or read pie-in-the-sky predictions of how Network Computers and Digital Universities will change your life?

Blithe techno-boosterism reigns supreme on IBM's Small Planet Pavilion site - a haunted project which might have morphed into a monthly "journal on learning and culture in a networked world" if it hadn't bored users to death with its soulless "written-by-committee" prose.

Surfing this site is like driving by the decaying temporary structures of a bygone Worlds Fair - until Big Blue's bulldozers arrive, it persists as a mindless celebration of Yesterday's Technology - Tomorrow!

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Telluride Times-Journal

Something dreadful seems to have happened on the slopes of this fashionable Colorado ski resort. Mysterious "temporary problems" overtook the Times-Journal's servers back in November - a glitch the site reported "will be rectified shortly". Six months later, all that's left is a frost-bitten news page and a fractured classified ads section.

Perhaps the Spring Thaw will unfreeze this newspaper's servers. Until it does, we'll miss the Times-Journal's colorful reportage of cocaine-peddling Telluride ski bums, vigilante elk, and paintball shooting sprees.

It almost made us want to visit the place.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

Anthony's Most Annoying of the Web

This quirky site looks dead (it claims it hasn't been updated since January 27), but it might just be playing an annoyingly convincing game of possum.

If you're a connoisseur of web junk, you'll love Anthony's Most Annoying site, because it's one of the cleverest spoofs and most excruciating object lessons in the various annoyances Web users take in stride, including ghastly graphics, nettlesome error messages, and seizure-inducing blink tags.

If you do only one thing while visiting this site, click on Anthony's "Awards" page: a maddening gallery of GIFs from just about every two-bit web award program in creation.

The majority of these award links are, naturally, broken and bitrotten.

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Site is Dying in ICU

The Sensuous Times

Sensuous Sabrina tells the world she closed her site down to give her time "to do other things in life" - perhaps to spend more time thinking about how much money she'll make by auctioning the "" domain name to the highest bidder.

This cash-hungry site even goes so far as to implore prospective domain name speculators to "Check out our hit counter below and see the large amount of traffic this domain has received!".

When we skulked by this site on May 24th, the daily hit count was a meagre 15 users - probably not enough traffic to build much of a porn empire.

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved


This Russian site claims to be the "first online Web magazine in Russia, for Russians, and in Russian", and while all this might be true, CrazyWEB hasn't been blessed with an update for eight months. Launched in 1995 to serve as "the hottest Russian Cyberspace hangout in the upcoming years", CrazyWEB contains several oddly inspired, but very dusty features, including "Totem" (clearly influenced by Wired's Fetish) and a Moscow radio feed that still miraculously works (although we can't verify that it's live).

Even though CrazyWEB is as dead as Lenin's New Economic Plan, it's a useful jumping off point for people interested in investigating the truly bizarre things going on in Russia these days, and it even contains some oddly subversive links back to the West which might otherwise go unnoticed.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


For two years, author and film-maker Jayne Loader produced WWWench: a monthly column which painted a stark, uncompromising, and often very funny picture of American life in the late 1990's.

Unfortunately, WWWench has recently fallen into disuse (last update: December 1997). Loader hasn't stopped writing - in fact, she's working feverishly on a book - an "Old Media" pursuit which pays the bills. This activity has, however, put WWWench on indefinite hiatus, at least until Loader can figure out a way to make a few pennies from the site.

WWWench's content will be missed. Loader's accounts were both well-written and extensively hyperlinked; two qualities which placed her column head and shoulders above first-person "rants" written by lesser talents.


Site is Calling in Sick

Club NYC's Guide to New Year's Eve 1997

This obsolete merrymaking site persists like a bad hangover that a boxcar full of Bufferin can't erase, and we thank Chris Perry for bringing it to our attention.

Why do holiday exploitation sites like this one hang around for eons? The reason is quite simple: like stopped clocks that are right twice a day, these sites live in suspended animation until the calendar rolls around again. Then, with a few minor updates, they're recommissioned with a yawn by the webmaster. Pretty efficient, eh?

Holiday hangover sites seem to be an especially virulent problem on homepage hives such as Tripod and Geocities, where these comatose holiday zombies blight large areas of land with atavistic cheer. A few zealots have even announced the birth of a Christmas All Year Long movement to rationalize their fanatical laziness.

My advice to you is to partake of dead holiday sites with extreme caution - we know that if we run into Bif, the chirpy elf in Santa's Mailroom, one more time, we'll be tempted to reach for the strychnine.

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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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