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 09, 2008

Raiders of the Lost Files (Updated)

Raiders of the Lost Files (Updated)(Update 8/4/2008: the links to these rare artifacts have drifted over the years, so I've updated them so that the assets remain visible).

No history of Silicon Alley is complete without discussing On November 11, 2003, our skeleton crew of researchers, while digging through another midden heap of cybergarbage, discovered a rare and extraordinary find of images, sounds, and movie files developed to promote - a star-crossed Internet project that was well known to New Yorkers and San Franciscans in the late 1990s. This find, we believe, significantly expands the supply of first-generation digital artifacts associated with

Before discussing the gems found within the 11/11/03 Find, let's look at the digital artifacts that are known to exist today, and the gaps in the historical collection. First, it should be noted that the Internet Archive does appear to contain a fair collection of, a list of which can be viewed by going to*/

Unfortunately, much of did not survive the WayBack Machine's data collection process. None of the examples from 1998 appears to have been preserved intact, and only one recorded example from 1999 survives - the one archived on October 13. The reasons for this seem to be associated with the CGI scripting that used in this period, which seems to have thrwarted's Web-whacking efforts.

Of the 33 efforts the WayBack Machine made to archive the site in 2000 and early 2001, the results are slightly better. One can clearly make out the Kozmo logo and some of its product offerings. Unfortunately, only the home page was preserved in these passes - what was once inside Kozmo is invisible. The last image that survives of in its pre-failure mode is from March 31, 2000. Ghost Sites made its sole screen grab shortly after this time. So Kozmo isn't very well preserved, which is sad for those who grew to love this service.

Here is where the Ghost Sites Find of 11/11/03 serves to fill some of these gaps, so let's take a quick tour. All of these artifacts were recovered from the Web site of DiMassino, the ad agency that sought to make a household word in the late 1990's.

On the agency's main Kozmo page, you'll see a quick overview of some extremely strange Kozmo offline branding objects, including a Kozmo Metrocard, a Kozmo business card, the uniform of one of its messengers, and one of its phone booth ads. It's interesting to note that actually went so far as to trademark the phrase "We'll Be Right Over" (which means that you might want to refrain from ever saying or writing these words unless you're prepared to be sued by whichever liquidator wound up owning the corporate assets!).

Unfortunately, you can't see much more by clicking anywhere on this page - the really interesting stuff is buried deep within unlinked areas of the agency site that our skeleton crew had to find by resorting to a set of sneaky and stealthy means passed directly to us by Indiana Jones.

So without further ado, here is a list of precious, historically significant digital matter that very few people outside of DiMassimo's tight circle of brand identity experts have likely ever seen:

Now here is where the real fun begins - the next two pages are embedded with Quicktime movies - the first, the "Kozmo Challenge" starring Lee Majors - the famous "6 million dollar man". The second, more obscure TV spot, in black and white, plays on the Lucy and Rickie theme. Unfortunately, there appears to be no way to save these two movies - the Javascript forbids their capture.

The next two pages present examples of Kozmo's attitudinally-driven rest-room advertising (a method also used by, which placed its ads at the bottom of urinals in the well-trafficked mens room at New York's Grand Central Terminal).

One such ad is "He's Such a Loser - Why Don't You Go Home and Rent a Movie", and a similar one from the male point of view - "That Girl's a Bitch - Why Don't You Go Home and Rent a Movie". Each speaks far more eloquently about American sexual attitudes in the late 1990's than you'd ever find in a skidload of sociological texts borrowed from your local university library. and contain screenshots that neither nor was able to capture. They are perhaps less interesting than the other examples here, but do serve to illustrate what the site actually looked like during its brief sojourn on the Web.

The next two pages in the Lost Archive contain fascinating radio spots, the first of which is a fake testimonial from one of Kozmo's messengers; the next a curiously homoerotic interview between a customer and a video store owner that was targeted for use in San Francisco.

The Ghost Sites Find of 11/11/03 presents an extraordinary look at the life - both internal and external - of a legendary dotcom that time and memory have not been kind to. Unfortunately, this view - one of the greatest surprises to Web historians since the discovery of the Lost Pathfinder Archive - may not last for very long. Although the GIFs and JPEGs can be saved by historians, neither the Quicktime movies nor the radio spots - the richest data forms in this collection, can be captured for posterity, and DeMassino may have have wanted it this way. In the flick of a switch, we will lose these few remaining pieces of Kozmo's history and it could happen tonight or tomorrow.

The pages on DeMassino's servers provide a rare look into the past that illustrate much more about our time than even its brand identity gurus could have ever intended. One might hope that DeMassino donates some of this material to one or another of the Internet's many data depositories, but this is unlikely. Commercials, in radio, TV, print, or hypermedia, rarely survive more than a few years before they are destroyed completely, and I doubt that Kozmo will provide any exception to this immutable rule.

Note: on November 16, I heard from someone who states that the Kozmo .MOV and audio files that I said "could not be saved" can in fact be saved, and that he has saved them. This is very good news and I hope to have more information about this soon.

For more on, follow this link).

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July 12, 2007

Suffer from Nostalgia? This Video Will Cure Ya

A messenger narrowly avoiding being crushed by a car in lower Manhattan, circa 2000 died more than six years ago, but many Netizens (don't you hate that word?) still miss it. But take a gander at this 6-minute video of the back office operations, which aired shortly before went kaput, and you'll see a different view: workers crowded in a dank warehouse, founder Joseph Park bragging that he "lives there in a sleeping bag," middle-aged employees noting that they work 80-hour weeks, and bike messengers careening around lower Manhattan, probably without health or accident insurance.

The video, which was clearly promotional in nature (it aired on a network called FinanceVision) attempts to show us how all the craziness and hard work paid off, but because we now know the fate of Kozmo's 1,100 employees and how dearly Kozmo cost investors, all the adolescent lunatic energy looks like nothing more than a bone-headed exercise in pure Netslavery.

For more on Kozmo, see Cyber-Nostalgia: Why the Web Still Weeps For, originally published on Ghost Sites May 2, 2004, or click the "" tag below.

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August 08, 2005

More Amazing Kozmo Artifacts

A kindly correspondent in Massachusetts reports that a large truck full of Kozmo-related promotional merchandise recently appared at an MIT flea market. Of this load, he acquired a helmet, a video drop off box, and a collection of caps. He took some amazing photos of this gear, which he has put up on his Web site. This collection may be the world's largest stash of historical Kozmo gear - a cornucopia for any connisseur of cyber-kitsch!

Kozmo is dead, but will likely be remembered for a long time. I don't know if you've ever spent much time studyingvideo drop off boxes but they rust very slowly.

For more on Kozmo, please read: Surreal Echoes of the 1990's

Cyber-Nostalgia: Why the Web Still Weeps For

Raiders of the Lost Files

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June 27, 2005 Surreal Echoes of the 1990's

Back in late 2003, I was overjoyed to discover a trove of ancient digital artifacts stowed aboard the servers of, the ad agency that ran Kozmo's advertising campaigns. Sadly, as a reader recently pointed out to me, in recent months's admins have purged the site of all of this historical matter, which is a great loss to all of us who wish to study the rise and fall of, one of the few sites that continue to inspire widespread affection among its former customers.

Fortunately, all is not lost. The Internet Archive has a partial, but still revealing collection of Kozmo's ad campaign-related artifacts, including the following:

The classic Kozmo Metrocard
Imagine showing up at a subway token booth with one of these babies today. You'd either get slapped or hugged by the token clerk!

Kozmo's Classic Urinal Ad
One thing I'll say about those DeMassimo people: they sure did know how to inspire gender-based hatred back in the 1990's. What a hot ad agency!

Kozmo's Classic Women's Room Ad
Who could claim that we're not an enligthened culture when both men and women view each other with the same degree of contempt? Now that's equality!

Kozmo's Business Card, Phone Booth Ad, Messenger Uniform
Kozmo's little orange business card is really quite elegant looking. But is that little man running or falling? Also, note the Kozmo phone booth ad whose copy reads "Dirk Diggler and Fresh Samantha," a reference to a character in the 1997 film Boogie Nights and a fresh fruit drink that was evidently popular in the 1990's). Also on this page is an image (blurry, of course) showing a typical Kozmo messenger's distinctive orange uniform and bag.

Kozmo's Jumbotron Copy
Imagine this: it's 1999 and you're on your way to a Cocktails with Courtney party. You've just gotten out of the subway at Times Square, using your Kozmo Metrocard. You reach into your wallet to make sure you have enough Kozmo business cards, and then you look UP and there's Kozmo, on the Jumbotron! What could be more exciting?

Being almost run over by the bus, of course!

If you're interested in reading more about Kozmo, you can read Cyber-Nostalgia: Why the Web Still Weeps for, published in Ghost Sites in May of 2004. Some of its links to EBay areas and Craigs List postings have, however, been broken with the passage of time.

Note: when I first wrote about the DiMassino archive, I was approached by at least one person who claimed to have actually captured the famous Kozmo Lee Majors TV ad and the Kozmo radio spots from If you are out there and actually have these files, please contact me. Kozmo's history is rapidly disappearing from the Internet and obtaining these files would be of great interest to me, as well as to future Web and cultural historians who will wonder, fifty or a hundred years from now, what all the hoopla was about.

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June 01, 2005

Ghosts of the Webby Awards

God help us, the Webby Awards are happening in New York next week, so it's perhaps appropriate to take a look back at some Award-winning sites from a few years ago which, despite all the Webby confetti showered on them, haven't survived.

In 2000, there were 135 sites nominated for awards; today most of them are still in existence, which isn't that extraordinary, given that the Webby Awards do a very poor job of awarding any underground Web content at all. Instead, they spend a lot of time awarding well-established sites such as,,,,,, etc., and pay lip service to a very short list of outsiders so that they appear to be open-minded.

This kind of mutual back-patting and cronyism among New Media "players" has always been an earmark of the Webbies; cynics will note that award-giving to media outlets is nothing more than a way to ensure that the people who get them will prominently place news of their award status on their home pages, which will raise the profile of the Webbies (something this organization desparately needs these days).

FWIW, I actually went to a Webbie Award ceremony; one of the first, back in the late 1990's. Back then, it was a big-budgeted affair held at New York's Webster Hall. The ceremonies were long, boring, and painful to listen to, and by the time they were half-concluded, the smell of powerful marijuana (every third or fourth person in the audience seemed to be lighting up) was so powerful that I actually had to leave. I'll never forgive myself for missing George Clinton's Interstellar Spaceship, which landed much later in the evening, but I learned something important about the Webbies: nobody in that stoned-out crowd is to be taken seriously.

I won't waste your time with an extended tirade against the Webbies; instead, let's get to the meat of it: which sites were awarded by the Webbies in 2000 which no longer exist or linger on in an advanced state of decay? One would think that their "fabulousness" would have given them enough of a jolt to continue their grim sojourn through cyberspace, but for the sites listed below, fame didn't translate very well into fortune.

Dead/Severely Wounded Webby Award Winners From the Year 2000

Feed Magazine
Webby Award Winner, 2000, Prints and Zines
Status, June 2005: Domain stilll active, site not operational, although site displays "...returning soon..." message which has evidently been there for years.

Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Music Category
Status, June 2005: Site gone, domain inactive.

Webby "People's Voice" Award Nominee, Weird Category
Status, June 2005: Site is active, but was last updated in December of 2000.

Green Witch Internet Radio
Webby Award Winner, Radio Category
Status, June 2005: Domain still active, site displays small graphic icon, but is not otherwise operational.

Happy Puppy
Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Games Category
Status, June 2005: Site is still active, but spits out so much truly dangerous-looking pop-up SPAM that I feared that I would have to power down my computer.

Webby "People's Voice" Award Winner, Radio Category
Status, June 2005: Site gone, domain inactive.

Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Services Category
Status, June 2005: Site gone, domain inactive.

Lonely Planet's CitySync
Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Travel Category
Status, June 2005: Web site still active, but the service it promotes was discontinued June 30, 2004.

Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Commerce Category
Status, June 2005: Site gone, domain inactive.

Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Film Category
Status, June 2005: Site now points to a page identifying itself as "a place holder for your future web site."

Quokka Sports
Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Sports Category
Status, June 2005: URL now points to a German company that appears to sell outdoor grills.

Respect Your Mind: Protect Your Body
Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Health Category
Status, June 2005: Forget about respecting your mind or protecting your body - this site now redirects to a hard-core porn site.
Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Sports Category
Status, June 2005: Site still active, last updated in July of 2001.

Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Music Category
Status, June 2005: Site still active; last press release issued August, 2001.

Webbie Award Nominee, 2000, Living Category
Status, June 2005: Site still active, daily calendars malfunctioning.

Thrive Online
Webby Award Winner, 2000, Health Category
Status, June 2005: URL redirects to Oxygen Media.

Stile Project
Webby "People's Voice" Award Winner, Weird Category
Status, June 2005: Site has devolved into a hard-core porn site. Don't go there.

Webby Award Winner, 2000, Broadband Category
Status, June 2005: Site is gone; URL now points to a generic search page maintained by the same mysterious organization that powers many of the Web's dead sites.

Webby Award Nominee, 2000, Services Category
Site gone, domain inactive.

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May 02, 2004

Cyber-Nostalgia: Why the Web Still Weeps For

I have a rudimentary method of looking at Ghost Sites' hit traffic, and I study these reports from time to time to see which sites incoming surfers are interested in viewing. While there appears to be a wide-ranging interest in many different kinds of dead Web sites, turns up more frequently than just about every other site (with the possible exception of

I'm not sure what it is about Kozmo that continues to fascinate people so many years after this brand departed, but I'm convinced that Kozmo has more active fans than those of any other corporate disaster with the possible exception of the Penn Central Railroad Company.

These suspicions were confirmed when I hopped over to E-Bay tonight and did a search for Kozmo-related "shwag" (otherwise known as throwaway promotional paraphenalia). More than 15 items showed up, about the same number that turned up the last time I did this, which was months ago. Over at, you can pick up a mint condition PVC Kozmo bike bag for the not inconsderable sum of $60 (marked down from $90). Even hard to find items such as Kozmo scooters show up now and then on the Web - Craig's List Atlanta had one advertised as recently as this past March.

What other dead dot com continues to support such a robust posthumous market? Certainly not UrbanFetch, Kozmo's main competitor (I could only find one item, a used T-shirt selling for just $0.01).

What accounts for Kozmo's lasting popularity? In the overall scheme of the so-called "dotcom bubble", the company's rise and fall wasn't that significant. Is it just that the company manufactured so much promotional junk that it's taken people three years to unload it? Is it that people in New York and San Francisco formed lasting personal bonds with the Kozmo messengers who brought them their candy and VCR's back in the 1990's? Or that Kozmo's advertising campaigns, featuring 1970's icon Lee Majors, were weird enough to stick in people's minds for years?

I think that best summarizes our recent, irretrievably lost decade of innocence because, for an all-too-brief, vanishing moment in time, convenience really was the main obsession in most urban American's lives. Not war, or terror, or the economy, or Condeleeza Rice, or Al Franken, or even the melting polar ice caps or growing ozone holes. For better or worse, the name "Kozmo" encapsulates our lost innocence more succinctly than any other name, and I'm starting to believe that historians of the 2100's may well refer to the 1990's as "The Age of Kozmo".

Stranger things have happened. I'm sure a lot of people who were alive in the 1920's who didn't listen to Jazz were shocked when this decade began to be referred to as "The Jazz Age". And being one of those unbelievably old people who were actually alive in 1967, I can tell you that I spent most of that summer riding horses and shooting tin cans with BB guns, so the label "Summer of Love" applied to that era has always seemed puzzling to me.

I don't know what historians will call our recent past, but I think they'll liken it to the Edwardian era that came just before the Great War (which is what they called World War One before World War Two happened).

Like the 1990's the Edwardian era was an excitingly giddy period of rapid technological change, its culture was whimsical (some would say fatuous), and its economic excesses and social inequities were enough to earn it the title of "The Gilded Age". One hardly need mention that each era met its end with the onset of a long and terrible war.

No historical parallel is perfect. But I firmly believe that a lot of people who never ordered a video from Kozmo secretly wish they had when they had the chance. Just so that they could have greeted Kozmo's cheerful bicycle messenger and given this panting, orange-clad fellow a friendly clap on the shoulder, standing together, protected from the abyss that was to come, trading small talk and laughing about being bright young people in a world where inconvenience was the greatest enemy, lateness the greatest terror, and lack of choice the greatest horror that modern life could ever know.

That world is gone forever. So close yet so far away - Kozmo - where are you when we need you?

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