August 6, 1998

by Steve Baldwin

Welcome to the August issue of Ghost Sites of the Web, your monthly report on sites whose tragic deaths are under-reported, over-looked, and otherwise ignored by a Pollyannish computer press.

First of all, I want to deny the wild rumors that have been circulating in highly unreliable Net circles that Ghost Sites will soon be sold to The Zapata Corporation for an undisclosed sum. Notwithstanding the obvious synergy obtaining between dead sites and dead fish, none of these rumors is true, and I want to personally assure you that Ghost Sites will happily remain a key component of Disobey.Com's "portal" into the world of dread, decay, and of course, disobedience.

We do have a correction to make pertaining to our review of the HyperDiscordia site which ran in November of last year. According to HyperDiscordia's Web master, one Pope Icky Fundament, his organization in fact regularly places new material on the site, but naturally, does its utmost to conceal this fact from the non-Illuminati. As a result, our reviewer missed HyperDiscordia's fresh areas, and made a wrong call. So I would encourage all of you seeking higher knowledge to revisit HyperDiscordia, to see "what's new under the sun".

The Net Magazine (The Ultimate Internet Guide)

Perhaps we're overly jaded, but we're mighty suspicious of sites that announce they're taking a "brief hiatus from publishing". In our experience, "hiatus" is HR-speak for "shutdown", "layoff", or "bloodbath". The term's only possible justification is to make employees scrambling for the lifeboats feel calmer as they row away from the wreck.

When I took a good look inside The Net, it became clear to me that this site has been on "hiatus" for quite some time. The site's current Features page links to content from September of 1997, its 100 Best Sites of the Year was clearly crafted more than a year ago, and its Web design tips pages date from June of that same year.

Perhaps we should believe The Net's bubbly copy claiming it will someday return to "astound and delight the entire Internet community." But I think it's more likely that George McGovern will someday become President.

g g g

Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved


Wall Street's wacky love affair with "Web Portals" might come to a screeching halt if more investors knew about the dead portal sites gathering barnacles on the floor of the Web's cruel seas.

NetVoyage is one such site, and despite its designers' improbable claim that in its day, NetVoyage was "the talk of the town", its sinking seems to have escaped the press's attention, which is sad, given how much this site tells us about today's "portalization" craze.

Take a close look at NetVoyage's waterlogged corpse, and you can see many elements of today's "revolutionary" portal sites: categorized links (Yahoo, Excite, Netscape), a section where users could build execrable home pages (Geocities, Tripod, The Globe), a Business area and a Kids area (just about everybody).

We're not crazy enough to suggest that Yahoo, Excite, or Geocities will soon go the way of NetVoyage. We only point out the obvious fact that many sites hoping to crawl to the top by becoming "one stop destinations" took one-way trips to Davy Jones' Locker when traffic failed to materialize.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Elvis Sightings since August 12, 1977

Last summer, Elvis fever launched a thousand spangled cyber-shrines to the King. While many of these sites still exist, quite a few have either gotten moldy or closed their doors entirely as the Web's hordes of necromaniacs flocked to sites commemorating Princess Di's demise.

Elvis Sightings has been "temporarily closed" for many months now ("to better preserve Elvis's memory"), but its mysterious death should not overshadow the fact that it will live on in our hearts - forever.

g g g

Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved


David Blatner had a wonderful idea: provide a site that archives your web page after you die. This way, your great-grandchildren can say "Great Grandma really knew how to use Photoshop, didn't she?"

But as Ghost Site correspondent David Mediavilla Ezquibela observes, AfterLife.Org is currently a virtual crypt without any clients.

Why aren't people lining up to bequeath their web pages to posterity?

Well, the sad truth is that most people with home pages are probably fearful of the impression their crummy Geocities site will make on future generations ("you mean that Grandma was really shallow enough to waste the best years of her life building the Ultimate Madonna Links Page?", little Norbert will ask in 2050). (I don't know about you, but I've built enough stupid HTML pages in my life to truthfully say that I'd pay someone to destroy them, to spare my progeny's progeny the pain of knowing who their grandfather really was!)

So we're doubtful about Blatner's long-term prospects, especially because AfterLife.Org isn't exactly responsive -- we've been waiting for four months to get a reply from Blatner about why AfterLife.Org still hasn't got a single digital stiff under a slab.

Maybe someone should archive AfterLife.Org, just in case...

g g g g

Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved

The Creator

This is one of the saddest testaments to the web's collective imagination we've ever seen. The idea here is that you (the user) can reconfigure the site's home pages, and thus create a "communal" site that functions as a real-time graffiti board of cyber-thought for all the world to see.

Neat idea, but three years after its launch, this bold interactivity experiment is broken, underpatronized, and downright derelict . Although the site's second and fourth page seem to have been graced with fresh user-supplied content, its first and third pages haven't been modified in more than a year.

g g g g

Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

The Convergence

This slickly designed Canadian site ran smoothly from January to December 1997, and then plunged into a coma. The site was conceived by K.K. Campbell to look forward to "that day when all media -- books, movies, music, virtual reality, newspapers, TV, whatever -- will be equally accessible from the same spot." Despite Campbell's futuristic intentions, the only things converging on this site right now are flies.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of The Convergence is its eerie "Countdown to the Year 2000" section, which stopped ticking back in late January 1997. (I know more than a few people who've been spooked enough by the Y2K bug to believe we'd all be better off if The Convergence's stopped clock were correct).

Thanks to Haynes Lee for notifying us of The Convergence's eternal sleep.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Planet Art

Not much to say about this one, except to note that we've never seen so many lovely ODBC errors on one page.

Even if Art Planet's dysfunctional home page (which now reads "More Than 0 Artists and Galleries Listing Over 0 Works!") is a conceptual art experiment, or a low-key protest about bugs in Microsoft's database engine, we'll continue to seek our art elsewhere.

g g g g

Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

Ted Nugent: Stranglehold

We don't like to pick on fan sites, but this egregiously outdated unofficial shrine to Ted ("Wango Tango") Nugent is a heavy metal rustbucket whose oxidized elements include a 1997 Summer concert calendar and an expired chat channel.

Compensating somewhat for this site's depraved atavism is its rich archive of Nugent nostalgia, including a gaggle of chest-thumping interviews with Ted, whose underappreciated contributions to Western Culture include "My Love is Like a Tire Iron".

g g g

Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved

Berkeley's CinemaSpace

More than seventeen months have elapsed since Berkeley's deep-thinking film studies site stopped posting pithy monographs whose pretentious titles include "Cinematic Mapping and Hypertext Dispersion" and "Nation and Narrativity on the Starship Enterprise".

Although Cinema Space is a moribund site, it's not completely dead - recently, a link to NY's Underground Film Festival was added, proving that somebody at Berkeley still cares about happens to this rusty oasis of academic-speak.

g g

Site is Dying in ICU

The Corporation

Good satirical writing seems to be an endangered species on the Net; witness the fate of The Corporation: a hilarious parody of Corporate America that hasn't been updated in an alarmingly long time.

Fearing that The Corporation might have actually succumbed to its own bureaucratic inertia, we e-mailed its PR Department, and after about 10 days, received an answer from one of the conglomerate's underpaid career flaks, Reedber Jones, who begged us to wait a few days until The Corporation could whip up a press release explaining the site's quiescence.

We waited and waited, and on August 3rd, Jones finally got executive approval to put the release up, and it makes for depressing reading. Apparently, a frivolous lawsuit against The Corporation has pierced the heart of one of America's greatest blue chip companies, and has resulted in a near-complete shutdown of one of the Net's most dependable sources of humor.

Special thanks to David White for keeping tabs on The Corporation's continuing litigation struggles.


Site is Calling in Sick


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.

Previous Issues

Text issues? Click here.
Web issues? Click here.

Read the next issue or
this issue in plain text.