February 15, 1999

by Steve Baldwin

Bruce Sterling sent us a very interesting report on Internet Link Rot published last year in Jakob Nielson's Alertbox.

The report identifies linkrot as a serious threat which "contributes to dissolving the very fabric of the Web", and "a direct attack on the founding principle of the Net." It goes on to say that the volume of broken links is doubling every year, which suggests what Ghost Sites has known for some time - the Web is being eaten by invisible termites with incomprehensible error messages on their tiny backs.

We imagine that some day in the near future, the problem of link rot will become so serious a threat to the Information Economy that First Lady Tipper Gore will propose an Internet Beautification Program to clean up all the rotten, trashy sites littering the high-speed byways of e-commerce.

Until that time, however, we're glad that Link Rot is growing like virtual Kudzu, because it means that there will be enough Ghost Sites to write about in the coming years. I frankly never thought that penning site obituaries would become my life's work, but Hell, if the shoe fits, wear it.

In the shameless self-promotional department this month, I've launched a new e-zine, mpXreview.com that's devoted to reviewing independent music from MP3 musicians, and also continue to work on NetSlaves, which has been getting some healthy attention from the tabloid press.


igoldrush.com was a news-oriented site targeted at the legions of grubby New Age Willy Lomans seeking to make a fast buck by speculating in the domain name trade. Chock-a-block with golden rules, domain name trading tips, testimonials, and special reports, igoldrush.com posted its last news item in December of 1997.

Although igoldrush.com is as dead as they come, its pragmatic tutorials on buying and selling domain names still provide useful tips for the greedy Net Entrepreneur, and a few of its anecdotes are fascinating, especially the story about the owner of television.com, who turned down an offer from CNet for $50,000, believing his name was worth millions more. He didn't get a dime, of course, and today, television.com is just an empty, floating placeholder on the Net - not exactly a ghost site -- just an empty wallet lying open, waiting to be filled with cash from some mad media mogul on a spending spree.

Thanks to Haynes Lee, who's contributed many dead site sightings to us in the past, for sending this item on.

g g g g

Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

Cult of Macintosh

"Apple Technology at Work", reads a promotional banner on this rusty site, but the link it points to (always.apple.com) is busted, and this site's last update was August 30, 1996. A noble effort to bring all Macintosh resources within one (rather ugly) frame-based page, the Cult of Macintosh is a virtual time capsule of the sad state of Macdom a few years ago, when scruffy inspirational pages like "Save Apple" were all that seemed to separate the Mac from the dustbin of history.

This bitrotten site, based in Finland, is a virtual cornucopia of Mac-related Ghost Pages, including "The Celebrity Macintosh Page", old home pages for Adam and Tonya Engsts' TidBITS, and most notably, Steve Wozniak's own WOZ.ORG, - an under-maintained, Netscape 2.0-optimized site run by Apple's co-founder whose outdated elements include a discontinued scrabble game and an Events Section pointing to KansasFest '96.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Cochlea! Home Page

Got an ear problem? You'd better go elsewhere. Although The Cochlea! Home Page, maintained by Doctor John J. Shea III, is described in Yahoo as "devoted to info and support for patients and families of patients with disorders of the ears, hearing and balance", one perceptive Ghost Sites reader points out that "not only has it not been updated since December (of 1997), but the only thing on the site is a Mov. file about some kid's birthday".

The really alarming thing about finding an outdated site like this is how much it says about Yahoo's outdated listings. If Yahoo is serious about its plan to charge site owners for expedited listings in its databases, it really should peel off a few bills and hire a NetSlave or two to clean up its "ghost Yahoo listings", which are all too often inaccurate, misleading, and out-of-date.

g g g g

Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

The CPU Organization

Sporting one of the most elegant "Under Construction" signs we've ever seen, The CPU Organization proudly announces that it has now "recovered from The Crash of '96", and will soon be back online "any day now".

We're highly intrigued by the idea that an organization devoted to CPU's would take more than two years to recover from a crash. We're not sure what terrible problem afflicted CPU.org's CPUs, but suspect that we may have stumbled upon the smoldering remains of the world's first unsuccessful Linux installation.

Thanks to Fabian, from Germany, who sent us this item.

g g g g

Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

The Couch

We briefly mentioned the demise of the Couch more than a year ago, but because this dead site still persists, we're going to revisit it. The Couch was a grandiose production of the Cyborganic Corporation, and it was conceived as a web-based "virtual group therapy session", wherein users could vicariously enter the lives of its troubled characters as they grappled with their personal problems. For better or worse, The Couch's sessions ground to a halt in mid-1997, bottling up the neuroses of its quirky subjects forever.

It's really amazing how much effort went into this Ghost Site - 32 fully-blown session, tons of hyperlinks, images, diary entries, and brain-warping fantasies, all laid out for the world to see. But effort, and an arguably inspired idea, were clearly not enough to ensure The Couch's survival, and it now lies unburied, along with other failed Web serials, such as The Spot.

Thanks to Kjenson for sending news of The Couch on to us.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Farrah Fawcett: All of Me

Playboy Magazine was kind enough to point to Ghost Sites recently, so I probably shouldn't mention this rusty promotional site for a soft-core Special Collection video released back in August of 1997. There's certainly nothing evil about keeping a site full of obsolete "sneak peaks" up, and a site of this kind probably serves a useful public service by informing the Web that Ms. Fawcett is both a talented painter and sculptor, in addition to being a Blond Icon of the 20th Century.

Because I'm over 40 myself, I'll avoid snide comments about the relationship between time and beauty, or jokes about being "well-preserved". I will only note that some things really don't get better with time - especially Web sites which aren't cared for, and if I were Ms. Fawcett, I'd insist that Playboy at least fix the broken "Like to Watch (ahem) Sports? Click Here!" link on the site's home page, which sends users into the most unerotic, most unsensual zone we know of today: the land of the dreaded Error 404.

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.