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.

July 25, 2008

Three AOL Blogs Living on Borrowed Time

AOL has put the cabash on three Blogs that have failed to meet expectations:, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, and DownloadSquad, according to an internal memo posted on These properties were inherited from AOL's acquisition of WebLogs Inc, a property put together a few years ago by noted Silicon Alley bad boy Jason McCabe Calacanis for about $25 million. In my book, Calacanis is second only to Mark Cuban in being able to talk fat-walleted corporations out of millions for Web properties with dubious futures (Cuban got more than a billion from for, which Yahoo doesn't even use anymore).

Anyway, in the interest of historical preservation, here are screen shots form these three doomed Blogs. It seems that a major factor that doomed them was their pay-per-post model, which clearly made them a cost center in AOL's dwindling (some might say hemorrhaging) online empire. Thanks to for surfacing this sad story. was killed by the bean counters at AOL

The Unofficial Apple Weblog fell victim to its pay-per-post economics is another casualty of AOL's austerity measures

Labels: , , ,

September 11, 2007

The Search Engine Marketing Weblog Dies, But Will Remain Active to Collect Link Juice

We're written in the past about Jason Calacanis (who we like) and the fact that his meteoric career has left an unprecedently large trail of dead Web flotsam in his wake (which we don't like). First there was, then, then,, and lately Some might call this aggressive serial entrepreneurship; others might use the far simpler analogy of the proverbial bull in the china shop to explain Jason's record.

Which brings us to The Search Engine Marketing Weblog, a foundational Blog for Jason's empire which he shrewdly sold to AOL for more than $20 million. Like a sizeable percentage of Blogs which formerly operated under the umbrella, this one has been languishing for some time, and finally gave up the ghost in early August of 2007. The Search Engine Marketing Weblog was of course devoted to covering SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization), two topics which have spawned a phalanx of similar projects.

The Blog author's farewell message contains the interesting tidbit that the site, while defunct, will not be decommissioned, presumably to preserve the "link juice" it earned in its heyday (The Search Engine Marketing Weblog ranks very well for the term "Search Engine Marketing" in the organic section of Google's SERP). Unfortunately, this news-oriented site grows more irrelevant with each day that passes, and so it will inevitably drift downward towards invisibility, ceding ground to better-maintained Blogs, once Google's spiders determine that it is an antique.

Ghostie Award: Site is Dead But Well PreservedThree Ghosties (Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved) I used to issue a lot of these rewards. Basically, the site's lights are still on, but nobody is home. Sometimes these sites come back, but I'd say more than half either vanished within a short time or began to suffer from serious bit rot, which can get very unpleasant.

Labels: , ,

July 27, 2007

Nearly Half of Weblogs Inc's Blogs Are Dead

Well, it's time to needle Jason Calacanis again. I like needling Jason because I know he has a customized alert set up, just like Danny Sullivan and other Web bigwigs with robust egos. Whenever anywhere in the world, from Zanzibar to East Harlem, mentions Jason or Danny, alarm bells ring and Klaxons blare in their offices, and they immediately come over to see what the ruckus is.

It's frickin' Pavlovian.

What's the ruckus today? Well, it looks like almost half of the Blogs at WebLogs Inc. are no longer updated. Of 106 Blogs listed within the network, only 54 remain active, with 52 being classified as "inactive/on hiatus." Now I know this isn't Jason's fault -- after all, he sold WebLogs to AOL back in 2005 for about $25 million, and while he's still listed on Weblogs Inc's masthead, he's not responsible for all the bitrot that's been piling up there.

But Jason, look dude, can you really sleep at night knowing that you profited so mightily from selling property which less than two years after its transfer is starting to look as weedy as Grey Gardens? I mean, 50 percent of these Blogs are dead. Sure, you got over AOL in a big way and that's no small achievement. After the way they treated you at, I'd be the last one to tell you to return any of this money. But wow - is this whole Web publishing thing for real or just a new age version of Glen Garry Glen Ross? Are none of us anything more than salesmen of swampy real estate to clueless buyers?

Labels: ,

June 01, 2007

Let's Talk About Mahalo

I happen to like Jason McCabe Calacanis, although back in my Netslaves days, having anything nice to say about Jason was a prescription for a group flame attack from the angry hordes that used to populate

Why do I like Jason? Well, he's a tough character who's taken his share of hits in the last ten years. He could have sold Silicon Alley Reporter for a big chunk of change before the bust that wiped Silicon Alley off the map in 2001, but he stuck it out, even though it practically ruined him.

I last met up with Jason in 2003 at one of those low-rent "indie media" events that used to be held in the basement of CBGB's. There were a lot of New York luminaries there, and there was one heavy hitter: Michael Moore. Jason was supposed to go on stage right before Moore, but at the last minute the conference organizers changed the program so that Moore went on before Jason.

The result was a disaster for Jason. 30 seconds after the flashbulbs stopped popping at Moore (who exhorted all of us to do so something radical, although I don't recall what that something was), the room cleared out, leaving Jason alone, on the stage, addressing an empty room.

I felt so bad for him that I moved to the front of the room, sat down in a chair, and spent a half hour listening to what he was saying. I don't remember the specifics of his speech, but he was optimistic about the future, and he wasn't about to give up, which was just about 180 degrees out of phase with what the other presenters had said during that long day. Just about everyone was fed up, broke, and disgusted by the New Economy, which had wrecked most of our careers. Jason, on the other hand, was trying to figure out what went wrong, and how to move ahead, which was a heretical style of thinking back in those dark days.

Today, of course, we're in the middle of a boom again, and this new boom is fueled less by speculation and utopian cyber-mania than in a cold fact: dollars are being sucked out of traditional advertising and winding up on the Web, especially on search engines (I know this for a fact because I am gainfully employed for a SEM agency). The old order is crumbling, and there are plenty of jobs for people, in New York, and elsewhere, stoking the furnaces of this new machine. Sure, there's a bubble component to this now: most video sites won't survive, most search engines won't survive, there will be consolidations, layoffs, and lots of lost money in the future. But the essential component of this era is realism and reality, not fantasy. Real dollars are flowing out of the dumb broadcast networks and the dumb ad agencies, and they're being directed toward smarter networks and smarter agencies.

Which brings us to Jason's new project: a "human-edited search engine" called Mahalo. Maybe I'm crazy and this new thing will be a huge success for Jason, but I have my doubts, starting with its mission statement: "Mahalo is the world's first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. "

Jason - you've been around the block a few times and should know better than to authorize this poppycock copy. What was Magellen-McKinley but a "human-edited search engine?" How about Lycos (a human-edited directory and a search engine), or About (formerly The Mining Company, now owned by the New York Times)? If anything, Mahalo is a throwback to the mid 1990's, when everybody under the sun was going after Yahoo, chanting the "excellence in content" mantra, and going broke, or at least "going flat," after a few months.

Second, who on earth has the time to "hand-write" SERPs these days? I went to Mahalo, typed in the text string I use to gauge the accuracy of every search engine ("wild parrots in Brooklyn"), and saw nothing except an invitation to hand-code a SERP. Do you really think that people are going to just start contributing their content to you because you need it?

A more important question is this: why are you reinventing a creaky wheel? "Human-edited search engines" are notoriously hard to maintain (spend some time examining broken links in Yahoo's directory if you don't believe me). They only made sense back in the pre-AltaVista days when search engines truly sucked. Why turn back the clock?

Jason, you're a smart guy and everybody knows it. But I really don't understand what's unique about Mahalo, why people should use it, or why you you're pushing this property right now. Eschewing algorithms and automation in favor of "hand-crafted" results may have nostalgic appeal, but it's neither new nor wise, and I often wonder whether you've been spending too much time with those awful Web 2.0 zealots.

Still, it's probably unfair to judge Mahalo right now (the site is in Alpha). What's there might well morph into an interesting synthesis of human and machine decisions. Jason will certainly have no shortage of outsiders (myself included) crowing about what's wrong about it, and because Mahalo is is his baby, will be working hard to make it better in the weeks and months ahead. Jason knows as well as anybody that content development on the Web is an interative process, and my hope is that whatever tech platform he's chosen to build Mahalo on is flexible enough to accomodate any necessary changes that he and his team conclude will deliver on Mahalo's promise.

One more thing: just because an idea is old doesn't mean that it's bad. If you've ever spent poking around The Museum of Electronic Failure, you've probably discovered that many of today's "runaway Web 2.0 successes" weren't new ideas or even particularly superior executions. They just came along at precisely the right time, neither too soon nor too late.

Timing is critical on the Web: perhaps more critical than capital. And as I learned that day back in 2003 at that long forgotten conference, just because Jason is perceived to be out of step with his times doesn't mean that he's wrong. Who knows: maybe the guy can see a hell of a lot further than most of us can.

Labels: , ,

March 02, 2005

Mad About The 1990's: The Rebirth of

Remember, the notorious Soho-based DIY video portal whose founder, Josh Harris, predicted would someday "be bigger than CBS?"

Well, it's back after being dark for almost 5 years, providing the Web with a peerless opportunity to study video slices from "the roaring 1990's" in the form of preserved video streams, including material from the defunct Silicon Alley Reporter, Tech Rap, Wonks, BizTech 2000, and other long-forgotten Pseudo sources.

Many of these ancient (circa 1998-99) files feature erstwhile enfants terrible Harris, Fred Wilson, Jason Calacanis, and other boosters of the dotcom boom at the very top of their game.

Mad for the 1990's? The best place to start your trip back in time is to simply go to the new's search page and look for "Josh Harris", "Fred Wilson" or "Jason Calicanis".

You can spend hours of fun reviewing yesterday's wide-eyed Web boosters, their wacky prognostications, and smirk at their post-boom fates. It's a hell of a lot more amusing than attempting to wade through the tepid video offerings on the site's home page.

Pseudo's new site:
Compare historical screen shots in the Museum of Electronic Failure:

Labels: , ,

Click Here to Return to the Ghost Sites Home Page