October 26, 1998

by Steve Baldwin

Rogers Cadenhead wrote us recently to ask whether we might have a rare copy of Spiv - a long-departed Web site that tanked years ago - in our archives. Unfortunately, we didn't, and have been kicking ourselves ever since.

The idea that dead Web sites, or at least screen grabs of their home pages, might become as desirable as discontinued Beanie Babies is a fairly new meme. But who ever thought that cereal boxes would be worth thousands of dollars?

Wouldn't it be great to have a mint-condition copy of YPN (Michael Woolf's disastrous fiasco), or a "like new" copy of iGuide to show to your kids? Or an actual screen shot of Mecklerweb in its prime? I frankly doubt that these rare artifacts exist anywhere, even on Brewster Kahle's Archive.Org site (if they do, Brewster has them locked up in a vault he won't open unless Sotheby's calls).

In the meantime, friends, do yourself a favor and take a screenshot of any Ghost Site you find. You just never know what perverse collectible fad is going to come along!

Total New York

"Everything Must Go!" screams this doomed site's home page. And everything did, when Total New York shut down in early 1998.

Judging from its frozen Interactive Calender, the end apparently came on Thursday, February 26th, 1998, when a deadly cloud of obsolescence quickly overwhelmed the site's Urban Access Search Engine, its Fashion Section, and even The Spanker, an oddly-conceived literary project that young Ghost Sites readers should probably stay away from.

Fortunately, Sean Elder, the site's executive producer, had enough time to put Total New York's ghostly gallery of dubious editorial achievements into eternal rotation on the home page. By doing so, he assured Total New York a permanent home in the Web's Museum of Glorious Editorial Folly.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Omni Magazine

My old friend Jim Freund reports that Omni Magazine gave up the ghost a few months ago, and that its Web site is now static and lifeless. Omni was the first major magazine to give up its print incarnation in favor of a Web-based presence, so it's sad and sobering to see it die.

Freund believes that the demise of Omni was a direct consequence of the real-life loss of Bob Guccione's wife, Kathy Keeton, who believed in Omni's Web site and kept it from harm's way as long as she could.

This Ghost Site story does has a happy ending, because the hardy souls who created the Omni site, Ellen Datlow, Pam Weintraub, Rob Killheffer, and Kathy Stein, have gone on to form a lively new sci-fi site named Event Horizon.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum


James McInish was kind enough to let us know that Paranoia.Com, a conspiracy-minded site with a lot of cachet in the Web's early days, is one with the ages. The official reason given on Paranoia.Com's home page is "bandwidth reduction" an incurable affliction that's killed other popular sites such as Jeff's Nude of the Month.

Even though Paranoia.Com claims its "web server is now on the way to being completely down", some of its internal parts are still operative, including The Psychedelic Tabby Cabal, Kevin's Little Dream World, and the Unabomber Political Action Committee. Many of Paranoia.Com's denizens, however, have packed up to seek fatter, more reliable pipes to funnel conspiracy theories to the masses.

g g g

Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

The Twinkies Project

The Twinkies Project was one of the Web's first great funny sites. Along with the Exploding Macintosh Page, it pioneered the use of a deadpan documentary style to highlight the deconstructionist fun of destroying a cherished object - the Twinkie.

Like latter-day Warhols armed with a blowtorch and a set of high-voltage test probes, the madmen who subjected Twinkies to such an exhaustive, exquisite series of torture tests left an enduring body of humor behind them, but this site is in dire need of an update (it was last edited in May of 1996).

If Twinkie science doesn't progress, what hope can the future bring?

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum


I'll confess that I've never liked Zima, and don't know how anyone in their right mind can drink it. So when Brian Woodman called in the news that Zima.Com had died, I headed over to Coors.Com (Zima's owner) for an official explanation. I was frankly hoping to see an acknowledgement from Adolf Coors that he had woken up one morning with a bad taste in his mouth and had decided, on the spot, to withdraw all traces of Zima from the Web.

But it turns out that Coors.Com is also a dead site (at least for the moment), which leaves the precise circumstances surrounding Zima's death among the Web's Great Unsolved Mysteries.

g g g g

Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


Because I spent my formative years as a Web producer at Time-Warner, I'll always care too much about what happens to Pathfinder.

Recent events aren't very cheery: People Magazine is withdrawing from the site in order to set up exclusive shop on AOL, Time-Warner is refocussing its Web efforts on shopping, instead of editorial, and a project I've done a lot of work for, Netly News, closed down a few weeks ago.

These developments are discouraging enough, but what really troubles me about Pathfinder these days is the enormous number of odd test pages and other fraying bits of HTML that keep floating to the surface as I tool around the site.

I'm not sure what to make of these bizarre experimental anomalies (which are clearly not intended for public consumption) - I hope they don't mean that Pathfinder is literally starting to pop rivets. But their presence suggests that something's definitely going on behind the scenes - and I can only pray that what's going to happen will be good.


Site is Calling in Sick

100th.Com: A Celebration of the Boston Marathon

April 15th, 1996, was a big day in Boston, and thanks to the slothlike efforts of WBZ News 4, the entire world is doomed to re-experience this moment until Kingdom Come.

If you're interested in antique Web technologies, this site is a gold mine. You can play with VRML versions of the course, view animated QuickTime movies, and fiddle with a Javascript "Pace Calculator" to figure how many steroids you should have taken 30 months ago to win the race.

In a marvelous morsel of unconscious humor, most of these mossy Web gadgets were cobbled together by an outfit called "Tomorrow's Technology Today, Inc".

g g g g g

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.

Previous Issues

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

Read the next issue or
this issue in plain text.