June 25, 1999

by Steve Baldwin

As most of you know, Ghost Sites began its sojourn across the Doldrumlike seas of digital decay just about three years ago, when its author suffered what some insist was a supernaturally grim revelation about WebMortality, but most agree was just a minor nervous breakdown caused by too little sleep and too much HTML.

It's sickening to think that we've been chronicling floating Web corpses for nearly 3 years now - in fact it's more than sickening -- it's probably a form of insanity. What morbid impulse drives us on to poke fun at the fresh and forward-looking "Equity Generation" by poring through the digital garbage left behind in their never-ending race towards true greatness? Does anyone beyond a hardcore crew of URL necrophilacs care?

We don't know. But we do know that Ghost Sites is no longer completely alone in our obsessionary embrace of The Web That Was. Recently, a very interesting site, the 404 Research Lab, has emerged, and its mission is to "improve the internet experience through the systematic eradication of ugly and confusing '404 Not Found' errors". We wish them well, and suggest you visit their excellent collection of classic 404's - it's exactly the sort of insanity that makes us feel almost normal these days.

The Paula Jones Legal Fund

If you're searching for a way to dispose of some of that tremendous pile of cash you made on Salon's IPO, why not send some of it directly to Paula Jones? If appearances tell us anything, she desperately needs the money to hire some right-thinking Netslaves to freshen up her ghostly fund-raising site, which was last updated on January 28, 1998.

But be careful, folks - Paula's site is definitely dead, but it still can bite you - its donation area records your IP number, so don't any of you wacky Liberals think you can send in a phony $10 contribution, charge it to your VISA or MasterCard, and escape the wrath of the Defense Fund, which pledges to "investigate and prosecute all attempted fraudulent transactions".

If you're feeling sorry for Paula, it's probably a lot safer to just add a lavender ribbon to your own home page, shed a tear for America, and get on with your life, eh?

Thanks to wysi for this find, which was submitted through Disobey's ever-trusty Ghost-O-Meter.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum
(but still apparently accepts money)

Romeo and Juliet/Volcano

Here are two vastly overproduced promotional sites that Hollywood evidently forgot were clogging up the Net with gigabytes of useless digi-blabber. The first, Romeo and Juliet, is more than two years past its prime. Remarkably, everything on the site still appears to work - you can still send postcards, chat in an "amazing" (and probably empty) Palace chat room, and, if you're so disposed, download a screen saver. It's more or less what we're used to finding on an obsolete movie site - lots of bandwidth-sucking superhype in a huge, glossy pile of showbiz effluvia.

But if you're a true bitrot afficianado, check out Volcano, another 1997-era film that's got a big link from Romeo and Juliet's page. This atavistic site, which boasts "The Coast is Toast" will have you fleeing down Wilshire, as you attempt to avoid its Netscape 3.0-optimized pages, unwanted .DCR plug-ins, and relentless Quicktime clips as they converge upon you in a gargantuan pile of ossified lava. HELP!

Thanks to lyric for warning us of Hollywood's latest disasterous forays into epic cyber-obsolescence.

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Sites are Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Site (Redux)

We've mentioned The Site before, but when Johnnygiles let us know that it was still up and running more than 18 months after its formal demise, we just had to revisit its grave with a handful of stale roses.

A disastrous convergence experiment which dragged Ziff-Davis and MSNBC into an expensive miasma that left viewers snoozing at their remotes, this ancient, sprawling Web site is all that remains of the woozy venture, and it's really quite a grand display of 1997-era Web design sensibilities, as well as a vast, dusty library of outdated news and feature items from two years ago.

Especially fascinating is The Site's interview area, where yesterday's digital visionaries fielded softball questions from a smitten pair of talking heads in a hagiographic haze of hyperbolies (nice alliteration, eh? - they taught me that at Time Inc.).

Many of The Site's puffed-up futurists have disappeared without a trace, so it's an excellent place for smartass journalists to hunt for quotes to make the digitirati's ambitious prognostications of 1997 look ridiculously naive, self-serving, and, as we say in the biz "OBE" (Overtaken By Events).

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Condor Club

Daniel Smead, who's contributed amply to Ghost Sites in the past, brought the following Ghost Site to our attention - it's an oldie, but a goodie.

This site intrigues me. Last updated in September of 1996, it still claims to be under construction, predicting completion in the Fall of 1996. I know it isn't a big business site, but it seems the very image of a ghost site. I found and tried two e-mail addresses on its pages, now defunct. Their motto, "Fly the Unfriendly Skies," was apparently a reference to the endangered status of the California condor but it seems to have been apt for their site. But just who possesses the server this site is on? I am rather curious why it is still in its current shape. It seems to have died within a range of a month or two. Some of the information the site provides, on lyme disease, could still be accurate and useful, but some of the information on computer gaming is way out of date.

It's ironic that a site devoted to a carrion-eater should become a piece of carrion itself, but perhaps that's the whole idea.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

DIVX - Digital Video Express

DIVX was a competing format to DVD whose insanely greedy architects designed so that hapless video consumers would have to ante up additional fees if they held onto a DIVX-encoded video for more than 48 hours after first watching it.

The DIVX format recently died a cruel death, after several major movie studios refused to release any more product on it, but this site, which claimed to be an "online superstore for movies on disk", remains to remind us that even the best, most toxic greed-driven technologies sometimes implode. (Let's hope that SDMI - the music biz's similarly ill-advised attempt to fleece digital music listeners in a "pay per listen" scheme, dies a similar death).

Thanks to a user going by the peculiar moniker of "ghostsites" for news of this site's endangered status.

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Site is Dying in I.C.U.

The Virginia Technology Council

This site's disclaimer of being "currently Under Development" is either a complete fabrication, or, if true, so poorly reflects upon the pace of technological change in Virginia that The Council deserves at least a gentle upbraid for its sleepy supervision of Progress.

This Ghost Site is a bit of an oddity: its "What's New" section is two years out of date, but its News Groups section pertains to a 1998 IT conference, and its Event Calendar looks current (although no events were scheduled when we checked in).

Because the site's sections are date-stamped "1996", its clear enough to us that this site's pretty weedy, if not an absolute flat-liner.

Thanks to terryaa for this tip, submitted through the Ghost-O-Meter.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


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.

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