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.

January 04, 2008 Pays Homage to and the Museum of Interactive Failure

CourtTV's transition screen to TrueTV
Thanks to writer Helen A.S. Popkin for linking to the Museum of Interactive Failure in her lengthy (and very funny) online memorial to, which was published today on I agree with Ms. Popkin that Time-Warner's decision to shut down was "lame" but unfortunately it seems to have no shortage of lameness when it comes to interactive media.

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July 27, 2007

HBO's To Close launched in late 2006 and was a collaberative project of AOL and HBO. The site featured original streaming video content, plus material repurposed from HBO's various comedy properties. The site ran advertising placed by, and AOL subsidiary.

What went wrong? Well, without access to any inside information I'll offer the following:
  1.'s content was funny, but humor is a commodity on the Web. If you're looking for funny, this is the place. In fact, it's almost impossible to find anything that's not funny on the Web. The whole frickin' place is a funhouse. Why add to the surplus?

  2. JustInTime spent a lot of money hiring talent, including Amanda Congdon, Dane Cook, and others. Comedians demand to be paid up-front, in cash, and aren't going to settle for rev share agreements or "viral exposure" as payment. This meant that JustInTime had to spent thousands of dollars -- maybe six or even seven figures -- before it even launched.

  3. Was this site heavily promoted via offline channels? I don't own a television so I can't tell you. But only consistent promotion can drive eyeballs to the Web. I'd bet that there were many opportunities for promotion which weren't fully exploited.

  4. Standard-rate CPM or CPC advertising will never be able to earn enough to dig a site out of the hole dug by high talent upfront payments. had advertising pasted into every available spot on its pages, but whatever it made was less than what it needed to survive. This advertising doesn't appear to be targeted toward the content of the video. It looks like low CPM, RON junk to me, in fact a lot of slots appear to run house-ads for other HBO properties. This is no way to run an ad-supported Web site.

  5. The site never caught on with users. To its credit, it did allow users to embed and forward its video content, but it seems that few did. Its Blog format was the right choice, because it provided for frequent rotation of content, but it seems that nobody cared. According to Alexa, JustInTime's current traffic rank is 50,503. In comparison, the traffic rank for (the site you're reading) is 122,763. You can't run a niche web site and pay talent at the same time and expect it to survive for long without a lot of traffic.
I'd like to think that Old Media will wake up one of these days and finally launch something that will endure, grow, and genuinely take advantage of the full potential of the Internet. But the more I view their failed efforts, the less confident I am that this will ever happen., it seems, is just another nail in the many now embedded in its coffin.

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July 21, 2007

More Ghosts of Y2K

New York Times Closes Real Estate Blog
Y2K hysteria continues to live on the Web. Check out this ancient site from, located at

Weirdly, the site asks for authentication before it lets the user in. Hmm - maybe that damned computer bug just went into hiding, and will soon spring forth from's servers, ending civilization as we know it.

Lots of good moldy stuff on this site, even a link to a book by Ed Yourdon (remember him), "Time Bomb 2000."

For more on Y2K ghosts, go here.

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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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May 10, 2007

Richard Parsons, General Custer, Google, and the Sioux Nation

Is Dick Parsons Out of His Mind?
OK - I ordinarily don't get involved in hissy fits between corporate executives, but I was so inflamed by the inane remarks of Time-Warner's CEO, Richard Parsons that I just had to weigh in.

Here's what Parsons said on Tuesday, speaking before the annual National Cable & Telecommunications Association conference:

"The Googles of the world, they are the Custer of the modern world. We are the Sioux nation. They will lose this war if they go to war."

I've known a lot of corporate CEOs and senior managers (remember, I used to work for Time-Warner), so I'm no stranger to megalomania. But this one takes the cake, because it's so wrong in the case of Time-Warner. This organization has always had "too many chiefs and not enough indians," in the sense that it's long been bloated with too many chin-stroking executives with 300-year plans, and not enough well-paid people to actually keep the wagons moving.

Google, the target of Parson's tirade, has actually executed on its plan to make the Web coherent. Time-Warner's various Internet plans, beginning with Pathfinder , extending into ridiculous properties such as and culminating in a failed "hub strategy" that led it directly into the arms of AOL, has done little or nothing to contribute to the infosphere.

Sorry, Mr. Parsons. Your fantasy of leading an insurgent band of Native Americans against a foolish invading army is just that: a fantasy. Google represents the insurgency here: your company represents the doomed army circling the wagons. You and and your legal snipers can take potshots at Google from every angle, but you are no longer the gatekeepers to information and entertainment. You might win a few battles, Mr. Parsons, but the war has already been lost, and as Glenn Douglas of Instapundit has pointed out, it was the Sioux, not the Europeans, who were ultimately defeated.

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