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.

August 22, 2007 Goes Under

GreenStone Media, whose site was located at the domain, was a relatively low-profile project financed by prominent feminists Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda whose purpose was to broadcast/podcast content of interest to women. The site also featured a Blog and a community area. The site's tagline was "Talk the Way Women Want" but its efforts to syndicate its content to offline radio outlets were largely unsuccessful: published reports state that it only reached 60,000 listeners in the U.S. Last Friday, August 17th, it ceased all operations.

My take on this project is that it may have been shut down prematurely. I would like to see evidence that a serious marketing campaign was ever launched to promote it via offline or online channels. GreenStone Media's folksy approach to womens' issues could have given it a fighting chance against the crass commerciality and cookie-cutter impersonality of many so-called "sites for women." Maybe if Gloria and Jane had pitched their project a bit more aggressively to the major media, or contributed more visibly to its content, GreenStone Media could have been a serious contender.

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July 22, 2007

A Very Sad Ghost Site is DeadFilmmaker and game developer Theresa Duncan committed suicide in New York on July 10th; apparently her companion, artist Jeremy Blake, is also now missing, and may have drowned himself in the Rockaways.

Duncan had considerable success in the late 1990's as a pioneering CD-ROM game designer; her titles included "Mimi SmartyPants," "Chop Suey" and "Zero Zero." These games featured quirky, non-violent scenarios that proved popular with young girls, and were both well-reviewed and well-received by the market. Mr. Blake collaborated on the illustrations for these games, and became a well recognized graphic artist in his own right who showed at New York's Whitney Museum.

Theresa Duncan leaves behind her Blog, located at, which for two years chronicled her thoughts; its formal title is "The Wit of the Staricase."

It's always tempting to view the online writings left behind by a suicidal soul as both a last testament to life and a trail of clues that might explain such a tragedy, and I'm sure we'll be reading many such interpretations in the coming weeks, especially because Duncan made some eerie statements on her Blog in her last days, including:

  • "Goodnight, Children, We're In The Arms Of The Great Lover"

  • "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." -- 2 Corinthians (3:17)"

  • "What I hope you will do in the coming week, Scorpio, is rescue from obscurity any important thing that is on the verge of becoming unspeakable. Be a retriever of that-which-is-about-to-disappear. Be a rememberer of that-which-is-close-to-being forgotten."
Are these fragments clues? If so, where can they lead us? The Web gives us such enormous power to peer into the inner thoughts of others that it is easy to forget that the heart is dark and mysterious, and there are thoughts and feelings that can never be reduced to a mere form of words. One's online writings are, in the end, just a part of what one chooses to put out to the world. What one withholds, however, can never be known, and may in fact be more responsible for the actions one takes.

It's an awful thing when people take their own lives; and it is especially terrible when they are young, talented, and might have gone on to illuminate more of this dark world for the rest of us. May the friends and family of Duncan and Blake find peace in the future.

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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 09, 2007

Jane Magazine Closing, Leaving Web Clutter Behind

RadarOnline reports that Jane Magazine, a 10-year old womans' magazine, is closing.

No big surprise here. Magazines are dropping left and right, killed off by the unstoppable juggernaut of the Web. Magazine execs deny this at every turn, but it's the most obvious trend in the world. I mean, the iPhone literally lets people surf the Web in the bathroom, the last bastion of the magazine. Yes, people read them on the subway and in doctors' offices but most people don't ride the subway and most don't spend much time in doctors' offices.

Jane's website (at never got much traction on the Web. With all the money that Conde Nast stuffed into it, its current traffic rank is 159,485, which makes it LESS popular than, which has a budget of exactly zero.

When I went to Jane's Blog to check out how its readers were taking the news, I got a script error that froze my browser (see screenshot above).

Truly pathetic work; I doubt many will miss this monster, which will close sometime in August, when the last print issue ships.

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July 03, 2007

From the Netslaves Archives: E-Bitch's Unemployment Journal IX: The Laundry Chronicles

"When was the last time you had a meaningful discussion about laundry?" -- Steve Gilliard, 2001

Steve Gilliard was's star writer, but he wasn't's only regular contributor. For a brief time between 1999 and 2002, Netslaves functioned as a low-rent cyber-salon for the stylishly unemployed, servicing a roster of contributors who submitted articles because they had something to say, hoped to become famous for a few nanoseconds, or had nothing else to do, having lost their jobs but not yet their Internet access.

When was destroyed in 2003, its writers scattered to the ends of cyberspace. Steve Gilliard found temporary shelter at The Daily Kos and ultimately founded his own site, but others, including the writer known as "E-Bitch," remain unaccounted for. Before she disappared, however, E-Bitch left behind a remarkable multipart series dubbed "Unemployment Journal" which chronicled what it was like to be young and unemployed in New York during the dotcom bust. (Hint: it wasn't fun.)

While the bulk of the writing that went into concerned itself with dystopic futurist issues, E-Bitch's writing refreshingly concrete: the way the walls looked at the New York State unemployment office, the way cheap food tasted, the way decomposing hair feels when it is removed from the shower drain. Because it wasn't really "tech writing," it rarely got much attention from's readers, who clearly preferred articles about the flaws in Linux, The New Economy,, or Jason McCabe Calacanis. Consequently, E-Bitch probably took more online abuse for her choice of subject matter than Steve Gilliard did for repeatedly using the F-Word or failing to use a spell-checker.

Still, E-Bitch's articles provide an acerbic look at how desperate New York was back in the early '00's, and her best work continues to stand the test of time. Among my favorites is Unemployment Journal IX: The Laundry Chronicles, a free-verse ode to the most prosaic task imaginable in the Big Apple: taking steps to ensure that your clothes don't stink. While the New Economy of 2001 bears little or new resemblance to the Google Economy of 2007, laundry remains a constant in our lives, and people feel as strongly about it as they do about Rupert Murdoch, Sergey Brin, or Yahoo. Laundry remains relevant, and it's amazing to me that VC's haven't become involved in the laundry industry, especially because geeks, as long as six years ago, were clamoring for more connected laundomats. One wrote:

Are there any e-enabled laundries in New York? You know, with three dollar an hour 56K dial-up terminals? I've been looking to drop a load in one for a while. This might be a great business opportunity for the owners - they could simply recycle old machines (computers, not dryers), run Linux/GNOME on them, and put them to money-making use. Could give Linux a big boost too.

One can only hope that this geek didn't wait too long before "dropping his load" because E-Laundry parlors never did became established in New York City.

You can read (but not discuss) E-Bitch's Unemployment Journal IX: The Laundry Chronicles by clicking here.

More Classic E-Bitch Articles from The Netslaves Archives

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May 03, 2007 Has Been A Ghost Site for Seven Years Is Dead But Well-Preserved
Back in the late 1990's, an esoteric, feminist-inspired meme broke loose on the Internet which manifested itself linguistically in the addition of several letter R's to the term "girl," resulting in the neologism "grrl" (or, in some cases, "grrl" and "grrrl."

The meme got traction because the term "grr" suggested the kind of growling made by wild, frequently feline animals, and when overlaid upon "girl," the combined meaning connoted a new kind of cyber-active female, fierce, growling, and self-assertive, thanks to the awesome actualization potential of the World Wide Web. Within a few months, the world welcomed a number of similarly-named properties such as the WebGrrls,,, and Each in their own way was intended to serve as a bastion of femininity, a beacon of womanness, in a testosterone-drenched wasteland of male-dominated idiocy.

Several of these sites churn merrily on, but, a UK-based site whose mission was to "encourage, support, befriend, teach, respect and recognise other women and grrls online regardless of race, religion, political standpoint, age, orientation, employment status or anything else," has been lying in a state of complete quiescence since 2000. In Ghost Site Parlance, its present condition could be fairly described as "dead but well-preserved." Seven years is a long time for any site to remain so inert, and it suggests that for good or ill, the "grr" meme may have reached its apogee sometime in the distant, pre-Y2K past.

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May 02, 2007 Is Looking Ghostlike These Days Is Dead But Well-PreservedTracing the rise of means delving a bit into the early years of Web 1.0, when sites like,, and ruled the Web. (Actually, none of these sites ruled the Web at all, but they got a hell of a lot of press.) was the brainchild of Marisa Bowe, who started in 1995. The site was conceived as an interactive, multiplayer exercise in sadism for the under 10 set, and I suppose the idea was regarded as mondo cute in its time. Today, it seems a lot less cute, because extreme childhood cruelty usually results in some very bad things that happen later on in life. But now I'm editorializing.

The site, which moved to new servers in 2004, doesn't seem to have been updated in more than three years. Today, it's Alexa ranking is just 529,216 (by comparison, ranks 115,240.) is long gone (the domain name was sold to Miriam Webster for a pretty penny), and Marisa Bowe seems to have retired from Web content creation to focus on books. So it goes.

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May 19, 2004

Forgotten Web Celebrities:'s Jennifer Ringley

(Article updated 8/28/2007) Embedded in the Web's crumbling walk of cyber-fame there are many stars. But none glowed so brightly and for so long as Jennifer Ringley, best known as "Jenni" of the Jennicam. For seven long years she lived with a Webcam, drew worldwide adulation, but then, in December of 2003, summarily shut down her camera and disappeared from cyberspace as mysteriously as a goddess summoned back to Valhalla.

More has likely been written about Ringley and her Web cam than anyone short of Bill Gates or Tim Berners-Lee. One journalist credited her with being the "inventor of reality television" and there is more than a shred of truth in this observation. Long before the genre had been conceived as a bankable concept in the U.S., Ringley was proving its worth on the Web, and she was doing it in 1997, years before Survivor, Mad House, or The Apprentice.

Feminist academics wrote that the Jennicam represented a "complex dialectic between woman as subject and woman as object, woman as both consumer and consumed." Others placed the Jennicam in the pantheon of Conceptual Art, a genre pioneered in the early 1970's by such artists as Sol Lewitt and Gilbert and George.

But CNN best put her experiment in the language of the masses: "Ringley is the "Ed" of the Internet. She has dedicated her life to being an open book, a voluntarily Orwellian existence that allows strangers a peek of her at the height of passion, or more likely, sitting in front of her computer, staring blankly at the screen as she works at her real job, a freelance gig designing Web sites." Even The National Review - a publication not renowned for its technology coverage or for the hyping of cyber-trends, called her "The Milton Berle of the Web," in other words, a genuine pioneer in a nascent medium whose form was molten, uncertain, and mind-boggling.

At her peak in the early 21st Century, Ringley, newly anointed "The Darling of the Internet," reportedly attracted more than 100 million visitors a week. Incredibly, the word "Jennicam" was at one point a more popular search term on than "Linux." (When this fact became known among porn vendors, the use of the term "Jennicam" became a widespread Metatag-based scam used to lure fans of the Jennicam to hard-core porn sites. Even today, there are many such sites whose Metatags contain the word "Jennicam" - an odd but not unique case of meta-information outliving the information to which it originally (and erroneously) referred).

Within just a few years, Ringley's Jennicam had became a worldwide brand (although not a universally beloved one. As one critic noted, "the only thing really being published at is pictures of empty chairs, empty rooms, empty walls, or sleeping jennis"). But mention the term "Jennicam" to anyone today outside of Media Studies departments, and you are likely to receive as many blank stares as you'd get by mentioning "Moxie" or Burma-Shave, or LaSalle.

What accounts for the forgetfulness of world-hyped aesthetic revolutions of just a few years past? Are we so overloaded by information that we are now suffering the social equivalent of Alzheimer's syndrome? Perhaps the spirit and temper of the world of 1997 through 2000 - the one in which the Jennicam resided - is so radically discontinuous to that of our own time, in which images of mass murder, political scandal, and nightmarish terror assault us each day, that we literally cannot recall that such a time existed. Perhaps we are ashamed of having even being alive in such an era, one typified by the kind of "cool" subjectivity shown in this random sample from's diary section:

Anyway, given that it's now after 4 in the afternoon and so far I've done nothing more than having breakfast and finishing this journal, I probably ought to try to make myself useful. Not much time to get all this work done before I head back out on my last planned travel for a while (though I'll probably be in Pennsylvania for a few days in either February or March for the filming of the movie Hollywood PA - I should find out more about that at my meeting on Monday), and the great thing about the Shout2000 trip to San Francisco is that my Ricochet should work from a lot of places around there. We're spending the last two days with our friend Courtney, since the company would only pay for two nights of hotel and we're going to be there four, and she lives in Sacramento where Ricochet may not work, but I'll still have the cam up from her home (though she has a cam site of her own as well - these things breed like bunnies!). So anyway, the laptop seems to now be functioning 100%, so I'm praying this trip goes off without a hitch. I'm off to pick up my mail and try to get some vacuuming done. Until tomorrow...

Was this kind of passage an exercise in high-concept minimalism? Well, maybe. Or was it just low-concept, or maybe even no-concept exhibitionism steeped in banal self-indulgence? Well maybe that too. One could never be sure - and this ambiguity, based in the user's own clammy sense of insecurity, a direct product of cyber-voyeurship, was central to the experience of the Jennicam. Jenni knew why she was there, shimmering on your screen - Web cams really didn't seem to bother her one whit. But what were you doing there? Who were you, anyway? A connoisseur of conceptual art? A craven, oversexed geek looking for porn? A lonely nerd looking for a friend? One could not be a party to Ringley's seven-year non-event without having the Jennicam experience reflect directly onto the dark contours of one's own soul, and in this sense, to paraphrase Nietzsche, "when you peered into the Jennicam, the Jennicam peered back into you."

Whether consciously or through sheer instinct, Jennifer Ringley showed us - through megabytes of abysmal minimalism - exactly what kind of world the West was becoming in the late 1990's, when 100 million weekly visitors routinely buzzed around a site where absolutely nothing was happening beyond a few grainy ferrets moving around under a bed where an ordinary girl lay, asleep. A world where the details of Monica Lewinsky's slip were, in much of the popular mind, deemed more important than the names of those slaughtered in the Balkans and where millions of otherwise sensible Americans tuned into Seinfeld or Friends to celebrate the final victory of the ironically ersatz over the true and the real.

While Ringley publicly claims that a new anti-nudity policy enforced by Paypal was the proximate cause of the shutdown, it is likely that the roots lay much deeper, in her own inward awareness that the world, for better or worse, had changed irrevocably. Despite the prediction of several pundits, shortly after September 11th, 2001, that "irony was dead," this new, terrifying world did not render irony, banality, or self-indulgence obsolete. It simply relocated these qualities from the private to the public spheres, projected them on real actors in a real world, crowded out playfulness, created the foundations of a real-world Panopticon in the form of such public sector projects as the Office of Total Information Awareness, and moved on.

Today, the same Webcams that once were directed inward, at living rooms and pet cages are increasingly being directed outward, toward parking lots, traffic intersections, and airport runways, where it seems, we hope to catch a fleeting image of an evildoer and push a button that will stop him from wreaking some senseless act of suicidal havoc. Of course, subjectivity and self-indulgence continue to thrive in the so-called Blogosphere, an area of cyberspace so completely wrapped in the self-involved, self-referential world of innerness that it may someday grow to inhabit its own special escapist planet.

Jennifer Ringley shut down the Jennicam on New Years Day, 2004, and this event did not go unnoticed by the major media. But nobody connected the dots between the two eras stridden by her project. Sadly, Ringley's role as the instigator of the meme that soon became so mainstreamed that it is hard to imagine a mediascape without it today is often overlooked. Fortunately, historians of Ringley's experiment have much to pore through, first, in numerous snapshots taken by the Internet Archive, by a moth-eaten network of unofficial fan sites that persist, a defunct USENET group, and, of course, by the welter of news articles written about her experiment (Google the term "Jennicam" and you'll be greeted by more Jennicam-related information than you can read in an evening).

Perhaps the strangest artifact left behind by Jennicam-mania is the now defunct Jennicam Activity Meter, an automated program that produced graphs of on-screen activity at the Jennicam. According to the Activity Meter's programmer, "It was possible to tell from this when Jennifer had got out of bed, when she'd been in the room and when she was working at the computer" without watching the Jennicam at all.

The Jennicam has been dead for almost six months now. While Ringley has apparently disappeared completely from cyberspace (an e-mail I sent her requesting information about her current status was not responded to), it is too early to say whether her self-imposed invisibility is permanent, a phase that she's now going through, or something that she's planned for a long time. If one takes into account the fact that Ringley has reserved the domain until January of 2009, it is likely that we have not heard the last from her and her personal Panopticon.

Postscript 06/04/05: Since writing this piece a year ago, I have received more e-mail from people asking me about the current whereabouts and disposition of Jennifer Ringley than I have about any other topic. Sorry, folks: I don't know where she is, nor has she made any efforts to contact me. But this torrent of email is sure proof that in the hearts and minds of those who experienced her in her virtual prime, Jennifer Ringley will not soon be forgotten.

Update 8/28/2007: In June of 2007, information about Jennifer Ringley's current whereabouts were revealed. Click here to read more about this development.

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