August 2, 1999

by Steve Baldwin

Once again, we have to take a moment to thank our sharp-eyed, cynical army of Ghost Sites Tipsters. Once again, your Abandoned Web Sitings have poured through the Ghost-O-Meter, lightening the research load. If I'm not mistaken, all of the Web Obits in this issue developed from your original findings - your uncanny ability to spot a shredded link from 500 meters away is almost frightening.

Here's a quick news note from BitRot Central: David Blatner, whose AfterLife.Org was classified as a Dead Web Site a few months ago, sent us a very nice note setting the record straight. AfterLife.Org isn't dead at all - it's just, in Blatner's words, "very slow-moving, because we rely on volunteers".

Sorry, David, for the misclassification, and thanks for being so nice about it. Friends, if you're looking for a site for a loved one who's ready to FTP their Last File, send David a note, and he and his volunteers will set the Engines of Digital Immortality into motion.

(One more thing - I want to thank everybody who bought Ghost Sites T-shirts over the last eight months - I've decided to discontinue their sale, because there aren't many left. If you still want a shirt, let me know in the next few weeks, and I'll try to get one out to you - I don't have any plans to reissue them anytime soon, so yes, they'll soon become another maddening 20th Century Internet Collectible.)

When Ghost Site correspondent Tim Wescott sent word that The Official Seinfeld Web Site hadn't been updated in the first seven months of 1999, we hastily inspected its pristine, fully-functional, but utterly lifeless hull, shook our heads, and added it to our list of the capsized. is one of those eerie Ghost Sites that on the surface, looks vital, alive, and well-maintained -- all of its expensive, bandwidth-hungry "immersive applications" seem to work, its Date Clock spins along in perfect synchronization with the heavens, and no bad CGI or broken links mar its handsome exterior.

But take a close look at the site's Weekly Voting Archive section, and you'll see that last saw a fresh file in September of 1998. Worse, its moribund What's New area dates from a month later. We're talking serious bitrot here - I'm not a big fan of Seinfeld, but if I were, I'd consider this level of entropy at "the official Seinfeld site" to be a real insult to my fanaticism. Sure, the show ended its run last year, but that's no reason to end the Cyber-Northingness, is it?

According to the site's builders, Venu Interactive, was built to serve as "a multi-faceted, constantly evolving fan experience" for Warner Brothers and Castle Rock. After getting lost a couple of times in its elaborate frames navigational stucture, I'll concede it's multifaceted, but evolving? In a pigs' eye!

TV Content Pirates should take some comfort from corpses such as As long as big media corporations keep screwing up relations with fans of their TV shows, movies, and records by letting "official" sites such as go to rack and ruin, "unofficial" pirate fan sites will continue to rule the roost. I say let 'em - at least the pirates keep their wares fresher than's fossilized digijunk.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


It's chilling when a well-run, well-reviewed Web resource runs out of gas, but that's exactly what seems to have happened at - a very useful search engine that once busily churned through mailing lists, USENET groups, and other text bases.'s decline into an alarming state of dysfunctionality seems to have been sudden and precipitous. On two recent instances - first when Phillip Kennedy initially contacted us about the site in late June, and when Rogers Cadenhead buzzed us a few weeks later, Ghost Sites found's search engine to be in a terrible state of confusion. Instead of spitting out useful search results, it regurgitated page after page of unparsed CGI that Cadenhead characterizes as "its own Python script". In late July, an ominous notice on's home page warning users that the site is closed "until further notice" provided an even scarier indication of the site's problems.

We can't know if's ailments are just a temporary infirmity, or if they foreshadow a grim period ahead for search engines, portals, and other useful Web gadgets in the year ahead. We wish this one well, and will check on it again to see if it revives.

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Site is Dying in I.C.U.

The Sleaze

The Sleaze was a First-Generation Internet gossip screed that morphed from a pioneering Web column launched in 1994 on Adam Curry's lost, but well-documented Metaverse site. Originaly titled "CyberSleaze", the column, along with all the other jazzy attitudinal fluff on Metaverse, put Curry's site on the map back in '94. Its writer, Jill "The Diva" Stempel, eventually sought to relaunch the column on her own (quite possibly because she realized that Metaverse was quickly becoming a Ghost). Stempel kept pushing The Sleaze until the Spring of 1999, but then all the lights went out.

As of this writing, The Sleaze has become a classic Ghost Site where the decay is overt and highly noticable to everyone who comes by. A hastily typed note on its home page advises us to "PLEASE BARE (sic)WITH US for a few more hours as we are moving the site from one hosting area to another [which is also the reason the site has been frozen and my e-mail has not been working for the last few days]."

More seriously, Stempel's weekly column updates halted abruptly just after the Oscars - that's a pretty long interlude for a weekly column to endure in any medium.

In some parallel universe, Jill "The Diva" Stemple is riding high, lifting Hedda Hopperness to levels that awe even Matt Drudge. Here, is the Ghost Site, and Stemple has a lucarative TV deal with Fox. But in this universe, The Sleaze is just another painful reminder that not all aspiring JJ Hunseckers make it easily to the pinnacles of Digital Blabber.

Thanks to ShowOff700 for showing us this one.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

Oceania - The Atlantis Project

The Atlantis Project site is a very old Ghost Site that dates from the Web's early days - to be specific, mid-1995. Launched to promote the construction of floating cities, the site's prime mover issued daily updates on the project's project for 8 months, and then shut it down, quite possibly because he became caught up in more pressing terrestrial concerns.

This is another classic 1995 Ghost Site whose pure, unadorned, banner-free look and feel captures the essential appearance of many early "graphical" Web pages in a way that's very nearly charming. It even has a bizarre prehistoric HTML coding quirk: a graphical Alt Tag that produces an image of two dolphins when viewed in text-only browsers such as Lynx. Amazing!

Before arriving at its final resting place, The Atlantis Project's Web site apparently got some good press, created a sizeable buzz, and was widely linked to by other techno-geek sites. But the weekly Oceania Oracle silenced its presses in July of 1995, and to our knowledge, no floating cities were ever built.

It's probably just as well. Floating cities, like Web sites, need a lot of maintenance, or they'll begin to sink.

Thanks to heretic for pointing out The Oceania Project to us (and steering us clear of it).

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum


Peter Stern was kind enough to send us news that (AKA the Internet Bankruptcy Library) hasn't updated its "Hot News in The Bankruptcy World" page since sometime in 1997, and its Upcoming Bankruptcy Conferences and Meetings section points to long-forgotten gabfests that all took place in 1998.

If by some chance this site went out of business because it ran out of money, it would be an irony too bitter to bear.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The HyperBoy Collective

As Peter Stern points out, this odd, quirky, nearly four-year old relic provides a kitchy look back at circa-1995 Web design sensibilities (which tended to be cryptic, garish, and wafer-thin in terms of both concept and execution).

Like some other star-crossed e-zines, HyperBoy appears to have become frozen just at the moment of its launch, a fate it shares with a companion site, ImageGeek, which shares its root domain (, but continued updating through 1996.

There's really nothing of any lasting significance to this site, except the fact that it's endured the stormy seas for four years, clear-eyed, young, optimistic, and completely dead. In a completely twisted way, that's quite an achievement, and HyperBoy earns our Maximum Entropy Award of Five Ghosties.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The 1994 Chicago Police Lieutenants Test

If you've ever wondered why your local policeman isn't smiling, spend a few minutes with the 1994 Chicago Police Lieutenants Test, and you'll run screaming back to Netslavery with a smile on your face. You think understanding UNIX is hard? Try your hand at answering 150 of the hardest, most opaque, most mind-numbingly boring questions on police procedure you'll ever run across.

Is some rogue Chicago cop responsible for putting this murderous piece of business on the Web? Hardly - it's the handiwork of a lawyer who claims that the 1994 Test discriminates against minority applicants, and put the test up to show the world how much it odds it is with the real world of the Police Lieutenant.

Let's pray this whole mess is settled, so that we can avoid seeing more tests from 1995 through 1999. In the meantime, the Web is stuck with this extraordinary example of Web-based Police Procedure Ennui, featuring the hapless Officer Thompson, procedure-obsessive Field Operations Lieutenant Hernandez, and hopelessly low-key Watch Operations Lieutenant Jones as they fret over the mystery of the uncompleted Overtime Checkbox.

Thanks to dugwa for this Dead Web site tip.

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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?

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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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