Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

March 19, 2008

Ancient DEC Video Depicts the Web of 1994

I found this great video on, Philipp Lenssen fascinating, frequently updated Blog. Created by DEC (the Digital Equipment Company), it shows a succession of early Web pages, accompanied by portentous narration. Of course, these battleship gray pages (they seem to have acquired a greenish tint, perhaps from mold) look hopelessly antiquated to us now, but this video does recapture the initial sense of absolute wonderment that many felt when seeing the Web for the first time.

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February 19, 2008

In Praise of Hand-Typed HTML Dinosaurs

This ancient shrine to George Harrison is still soldiering on after 10 years of faithful serviceA Ghost Sites correspondent named Jorg sends word that his Web page, devoted to the albums, songs and lyrics of George Harrison, is still alive and ticking after 10 years of faithful service.

I really like this ancient page, which despite a few updates, hasn't changed its basic form in more than 10 years. Check out that fabulous tiling background graphic, the centered text, and the complete absence of trendy Web 2.0 artifacts such as Adsense code and social widgets. Sites like this remind me of the shark, a life form so efficient that it hasn't evolved in hundreds of thousands of years.

This site is clearly an exception to George Harrison's rule that "all things must pass."

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July 24, 2007

Spectral Ghosts of Business 2.0

I wrote recently about the demise of tech biz magazine Business 2.0, which will likely cease publication as a print magazine this September. Business 2.0 has long lived at the domain, and that's where you'll find it today.

By chance this morning, I stumbled across some ancient digital fragments of an earlier incarnation of Business 2.0 in an old Time Inc. directory; the domain is: These artifacts appear to date from 2005; forensic analysis establishes that they were built several years earlier. There's a lot of bit-rotten content here, including an ancient Features area, a dysfunctional Web Guide and even a link to an incredibly old Pathfinder Terms of Service Page - now that's old - this legalize dates from the 20th Century!

It appears that Business 2.0 must have lived for a long time on Time Inc's servers. I guess that Time Inc. simply forgot it was there (this kind of thing happened a lot when I worked at Pathfinder). What would be truly ironic is if these old pages survived the newer ones at, which may not be around after September of 2007.

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July 13, 2007

Wild Women of the Web is a Ghost Site

Wild Women of the Web is a Ghost SiteTen years ago, Myspace, LiveJournal, and Friendster didn't exist, so Web newbies chose Tripod, Geocities, and to host their pages. In fact, I firmly believe that Myspace and its brethren are nothing more than gussied-up versions of Geocities et al upon which the Web 2.0 label has been attached, and that these properties are incredibly overvalued, given their potential to serve as advertising platforms. But now I digress... the point of this article is to talk about Wild Women of the Web, a site launched in 1999 on whose home page invites netizens of the female persuasion to "Come, explore with me and find your own inner self! "

There's not a whole lot of content on "Wild Women of the Web," just some links to fellow "Wild Women" (the majority of which are broken), a few articles on self-esteem which seem to have been written a long time ago, an archaic awards page, and a link to a marketing site long ceded to a doman squatter. The whole place has the feeling of an abandoned parlor whose occupant vanished into the mists sometime in the late 20th Century.

Still, there's a palpable Web 1.0 charm to this antique. Check out the cloud backgrounds and crude buttonized navigation buttons. They'll surely bring you back to the days when the Web was new, standard templates didn't exist, and everything was built out of hand-crafted HTML.

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July 05, 2007 is a Ghost Site is a Ghost SiteI'm not a fan of the Apple Computer Company, not because I think Steve Jobs is a horrible person to work for, or that Apple's products are crappy, or that the Mac users I know seem to behave like members of a sinister cult, but because Apple burned me back in the 1980's, and I'll never forgive them. What happened is that I cleaned out my bank account to buy a brand new Apple IIC, and just a few months later Apple decided that it would no longer support the II series, utterly destroying the future value of my investment. Since then, I've used PC's, and I've never been burned as badly again.

So that's my own story: I'll never buy another Apple product, but lots of people don't feel this way: in fact, they're clearly as jazzed by Apple as ever: witness the round-the-block lines last week for the iPhone.

Which brings me to, a site created by a fellow named John Swerdan, who so loved his Mac that he created an entire album's worth of songs about it in the late 1990's and early '00's. Swerdan's audio homage was in the spirit of The Beach Boys and other California-based groups that had written immortal odes to automobiles and motorcycles in the mid-1960's. Of course, Swerdan wasn't the only musician to write about computers in those days: a group called Barcelona released an album called Simon BASIC in 1999 whose theme was the lot of the programming geek; reviewed Shell Account, a later album, in early 2001 and they maintain an active MySpace page. There were also The Geektones, a band which not only wrote songs about computers but about The New Economy. got a lot of play in those days, especially from But for reasons unknown, has not been updated in many years (the site bears a 2001 date-stamp and the most recent entries in its photo section are from 2002).

I tried to see whether I could buy some of John's songs on iTunes but my browser immediately stalled, but that's because I refuse to use iTunes or any other Apple product. If you like Swerdan's songs you might have better luck using PayPal. In any case, is an interesting time capsule of one man's love for a machine. Hey - it's a crazy world with all kinds of strange passions: some nutburgers even write songs about parrots!

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June 28, 2007

Ancient Jackie Chan Pages Haunt

Joel Schlosberg found some ancient, bitrotten pages on the servers of that are true cyber-relics. His words follow:

"Here's one of the oldest and most ghostly book promotion websites I've ever seen: Random House's website for Jackie Chan's autobiography "I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action", published in 1998 -- and sure enough (by both internal evidence of datedness and checking the Wayback Machine), the page hasn't been modified much since 1998:

Note first of all that a lot of it consists of book excerpts, so that's not particularly dated. But moving on....

The first thing that sticks out is the color scheme: yellow and white text on a red -- and I mean screamingly bright, fire truck-red -- background. If one looks a bit more carefully, one notices that the graphics are conspicuously dithered GIFs.

There's also an early use of Java to add interactivity: namely, a simple Concentration game where the cards are Jackie Chan in various poses:

But the real gold is the links page:
There's a page of "Jackie Chan Windows 95 Desktop Themes", and best of all, a bunch of webpages! (The URL's are spelled out on the page, making it easier to find such gems.)

And while the vast majority of links are simply broken links, there are a few still-functioning sites that show signs of ghostliness: -- "This page last updated : 8/16/01"

Even better, some of the pages have a banner ad for the original site!"

Thanks, Joel, for pointing out these mouldering pages. They yield a unique view of Web 1.0 aesthetics and sensibilities.

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June 22, 2007

This Site Proudly Optimized for Netscape 2.0

Netscape's 2.0 browser was released in February of 1996 -- that's eons ago in Web time.

Still, there are many sites out there proudly announcing that they are "optimized for Netscape 2.0." Here is a quick survey of these hardy, Luddite survivors, all of which have stubbornly resisted the impulse to become slick. Clunky, clumsy, and pixelated, sporting absurdly colorful backgrounds, these sites, untouched by the flow of time, might be said to be "forever young."

The Multicultural Recycler

Amazingly enough, this strange application (which recycles "live web art from almost live web cams") still works! Dig that centered page layout and mixed-font collage look - it typifies the 1990's peculiar design sensibilities!

Earthquake ABC
Let's scare the daylights out of the kids with colorful blinking animated GIFs! A government-built site that's still horrifyingly effective after all this time.
My Gosh - is this Web site unbelievably ugly or am I looking at it in precisely the wrong way? Maybe if I play Garbage's "Stupid Girl" it will look better. Yup, that works - this beautiful period piece just needed a little help!

Stratamagnetic Software
A simple one page layout that would probably look just as good using Lynx as it does with Netscape 2.0. Love that "legal pad yellow" background; and that rotating mail icon. If it ain't broke...

Kid's World
This site is pure Netscape 2.0 joy. Play around with some of the links and you'll be plunged into a chaotic world of pixelated graphics, bizarre Javascript, and and disorienting frames. Love it, love it!

The XXY-Files
Another great, well-preserved Netscape 2.0-optimied site from the crypt of time, with a centered theme. Last updated July 1996.

The Canadian Learning Company
A typical site of 10 years ago, a bit rotted out (several home page graphics are missing). Still, many pages remain to remind us of the glory of yesterday.

The Great Globe Gallery - Awards 1997
I haven't made up my mind whether the rainbow gradient background make this site hideous, hilarious, or sublime. Especially wonderful are the Awards from such defunct award sites as Computer Shopper's Hot Spots and Your Personal Net, Michael Wollf's ill-fated project. A fantastic time trip!

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June 16, 2007

Is This the World's Oldest Active Web Page?

I went looking for the oldest active Web page the other day and came up with a handful of sites which, because of their age, deserve some kind of lifetime achievement award.

Vigilante Electronics
Vigilante Electronics claims to be "the oldest active web page selling used electronic test equipment," and it might just be true. This plain, cream-colored HTML page eschews clickable e-commerce features. There's just a list, a phone number, and according to the Internet Archive, the layout hasn't changed a bit since 1997. Hey, if it works, don't fix it!

Abigail's Dream
Abigal - whoever she is - maintains a page that, despite copyright notices dating up to 1999, is very old, and its "revolutionary" concept of putting up a dream sequence on a Web page, is even more dated (heck - I'd argue that the whole Internet Economy of 1995-2000 was nothing more than a dream sequence written on a bunch of Web pages). Abigail's Page was apparently reproduced in the book, Official HTML Publishing for Netscape, which makes it seem even older than its 1995 date of origin.

About Temperature
This document, prepared for science teachers, resides on the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and it was last updated in December of 1995. A multimedia tour-de-force (Wow - text AND graphics - now that's a teaching tool), it's a refreshingly simple mix of H1, H2 and H3 tags. Even with global warming, it seems that the principles of temperature haven't changed much in 10 years.

Government Crisis News
Which Government? Well, the Irish Government. Which crisis - well, whichever one the Irish had back in the early 1990's involving John Bruton, Dick Spring, and the Fine Gael Ministries. I think this page is from 1994 (there isn't any indication of the date on the page), but I'd need an authority on Irish Government Crises to verify this claim.

The Internet Classics Archive
Here's a Web page that hasn't aged gracefully. Marred by broken graphics, a misfiring search function, and a raft of Error 404's, the Internet Classics Archive was last updated in 2000, which puts it out of the running in our little contest. Still, it's certainly the oldest looking page in our roundup.

Pinball Expo 1994
Well, I think we may have found our winner. This page (it's a site, actually, with more than one page), which resides undisturbed on the servers of the Lysator Academic Computer Society, went on line in November 1994 and has been serving up increasingly outdated information ever since. Bless the university administrators who decided, against all reason, not to flush the fact from the Web that pinball's joys are eternal.

If you know of an older page than those in the list above, please send me e-mail. I'm always interested in cyber-antiquity, especially it's been a page, or a site, that's been continuously operating for 10 years or more without substantial modification or enhancement. It's amazing how little is left of early Web efforts: the shifting sands of Internet time leave very few bones on the beach.

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May 20, 2007

Looking Back on the Fabulous Year of 1996

Feeling nostalgic for 1996 (before the whole world really started going downhill)? Take a nostalgic trip through this somewhat eventful year, courtesy of CNN/Interactive and Time-Warner Pathfinder's 1996 Year in Review. This ancient interactive feature, built with (you guessed it) HTML frames, was the first and perhaps the only collaberation between CNN and Pathfinder, and it's been creaking along for a decade.

Although many of the 1996 Year in Review's image-mapped navigational links are broken, the story links all work, which means you can immerse yourself completely in the world of a decade past. You can even take a poll rating your Top 10 1996 News Stories, although you'll be greeted with an Error 404 once you submit your results.

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March 30, 2006

This Page Last Updated 10 Years Ago

Feeling guilty because your Blog or Web site is a few weeks out of date? Well get a load of these cyber-relics, which haven't been updated since Bill Clinton's first term.

In my view, any page that's been hanging around on the World Wide Web for 10 years or more without being updated deserves some kind of award. What this award would be is anybody's guess (perhaps a 1996-era Pentium 60MHz motherboard would be appropriate).

Without further ado, here are some classic Web relics that haven't been touched in a decade. In a Web 2.0 world, these survivors of the pre-Web 1.0 are true cyber-dinosoars.

The Netizen - Election '96
No, it's not the real "Netizen" (an ill-fated project sponsored by Wired Magazine before Conde Nast acquired and neutered this once leading-edge cyber-magazine and Lycos did the same to the Hotwired Web site. This page is just mouldering copy which somehow made its way to the Computer Writing and Research Lab of the University of Texas at Austin. Last updated on March 7, 1996.

Mu Phi Epsilon
The pages for this music-related fraternity have been residing on the servers of the University of Illinois for so long that it's almost possible to hear the thin strains of ragtime piano being played when the page opens. Styled in a lush 16-color safe purple background, this page was last updated on March 25, 1996, at exactly 10:00 AM.

CLU Philosophy Department
Philosophy, unlike genomics or computer science, generally evolves at a glacial pace, so it's not really inappropos that the Philosophy Department at California Lutheran University looks like it was last updated when Freidrich Nietzsche was still walking around. The ravages of time have left their mark on this page, which exhorts the viewer to upgrade to Netscape 2.0.

The Pizza Project
What was the Pizza Project? Well, it's hard to say, except that it appears this page chronicled a scientific experiment whose purpose was to establish whether a pizza could be purchased online. While it appears that such a pizza could be ordered, it apparently could not be delivered. Last updated on April 9, 1996.

Daina Pettit's Personal Page
An amusing artifact displaying a crudely wry sense of Internet humor (This is my 'personal' page. What are YOU doing here? ;^), This page has been accessed 257892357895279015078912590712 times.) It includes a link to the famous Strawberry Pop-Tart Blow-Torches page, which kept millions of early-adopters laughing through many of the early years of the Web's development. (Note: it really depresses me to think that there's an entire generation of Web surfers which doesn't even know about the Strawberry Pop-Tart Blow-Torches page. Philistines!) Last updated March 15, 1996

A Copyright Guide for Librarians
Having worked in several libraries, I can tell you that librarians are a very strange breed of highly frustrated people which tend to go into violent fits when something random happens in their carefully ordered bubble of existence. This page, which resides on the Catholic University of America's School of Library and Information Science, should have been purged from the virtual catalog years ago, because just about every hyperlink is broken, but it persists, a condition will likely cause life-threatening consternation should its existence ever be discovered. Last updated on April 20, 1996.

Jim's Shack
Jimmy Yap had the good sense to archive this old page, so there's really no shame in having it hang around, no more shame, anyway, than displaying an ancient junker in the front lawn of one's condo. I enjoyed this old page, given that it contained a a nice outdated view of "hot content," circa 1996, including a reference to the Netly News (my former employer), replete with one of Pathfinder's ancient session URLS ( Jim's shack even includes a cached copy of John Perry Barlow's gloriously ponderous essay (One Man's Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace) which ignited the fires of Cyber-Libertarianism back in the mid-1990's. Last updated April 29, 1996.


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