As heavily as we all use it, and as much we depend on it, it seems like Google has been around forever.
Yet, Google isn’t even 10 years old.
In fact, Google wasn’t even around for most of the 1990s; it missed the entire first generation of the web, which only really took off as a common everyday tool with the introduction of the Mosaic and Netscape browsers in the mid-’90s.
Google’s meteoric rise to indispensible status is perhaps not remarkable in the lightning paced world of ‘Net commerce. What seems strange and a little sad in retrospect is how little we use all those websites we did back in the 1990s.
As I got to thinking, I could only come up with a tiny handful of websites that existed 10 years ago that I actually use with any regularity today.
Can you name any websites you used 10 years ago that you are still using today?
Not many can.
I asked a computer techie friend this question recently and he couldn’t come up with even one.
It was a great challenge for me to even recall the names of the ones I once used heavily.
Ten years ago I was using search engines like Infoseek (my favorite back then; and now known as go.com) and Northern Light, and to a lesser degree Alta Vista, Yahoo, Hotbot, Excite and Lycos. I usually had them all bookmarked or stashed off to the side of my “frame” of my then-website. That’s because search results were so varied in quality between them that you pretty much had to rely on several to get what you were seeking. They’re all still around in one form or another. But I haven’t used any of them in years thanks to Google.
Like most everyone, I still use Yahoo, but for a different reason than I did back then. In the ’90’s Yahoo was primarly a categorized search engine, but has since become a multipurpose site and home of my fistful of various personal email accounts.
Back then, if you wanted a free website, you went to GeoCities and put in your stake as a “homesteader.” It was sort of the Myspace of its time. I had some websites there for a couple of years, long since abandoned and probably deleted.
It’s already been 10 years since the controversy at GeoCities over its adding of advertisments to users’ home pages. It now seems an eternity ago, and yet it seems like yesterday. (Yahoo absorbed GeoCities many moons ago). The more things change…well, you know the adage. The same kind of controversy over ads recently erupted at Blogger.
The only website that I have used regularly for more than 10 years is the Internet Movie Database, which remains the supreme and seemingly unsurpassable resource for film information.
One website that has made a comeback for me after a long hiatus in my usage of it is Piero Scaruffi’s Knowledge Base, with its incredible rock music database and Scaruffi’s always provocative and alternately maddening and thought-provoking opinions on the merits of various artists. An article in the New York Times once posited that Scaruffi’s website was the greatest of all time. Refreshingly, the website has bucked the trends and still looks pretty much the same design-wise as it did 10 years ago. Sorta like a beautiful fossil.
It was 10 years ago that the Heaven’s Gate religious cult’s then-state-of-the-art website became famous with the ritual suicide of 38 of the group’s members (who thought a UFO stationed near comet Hale-Bopp was standing by to take their spirits away). The cult’s homepage seemed to capture the imagination with its bold colorful design that blended and evoked the spirit of religious iconic art with kitschy sci-fi and spacey fringe religion imagery. The original website was deactivated soon after the tragedy, but has been preserved at various mirror sites and can be seen here.
Ten years ago Capitol record producer Brad Benedict’s website touting ’50s and ’60s lounge culture and the labels’ ubiquitous Ultra Lounge series was a popular web destination for those enthused by the then-hot resurgence of swing music, a trend that still has some legs—even if it’s no longer a viable fad. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin records are still selling very well thanks to it. (Interesting how a nostalgia series is now itself nostalgic.)
Ten years ago a popular weird website (that’s still going) was dermatologist Dr. Vail Reese’s infamous Dermatology in the Cinema/Skinema.com, which analyzes and explains in excruciating gory detail the skin growths and conditions possessed by your favorite movie stars. Apart from exploiting morbid fascination, the site’s popularity was no doubt due to its inherent and apparently reassuring message that stars are imperfect and flawed just like you and me. It’s not a site that I’ve really looked at in many years, but it popped back into my memory as I was writing this article.
A weird, fun old site that still gets occasional hits from me is Jump the Shark, the famous so-dumb-an-idea-it’s-great-and-I-wish-I-had-thought-of-it-myself website that originated with Jon Hein 10 years ago this coming December. Hein not only managed to coin a new household phrase with it, but parlayed it into a small fortune and a regular gig on Howard Stern.
Net geeks 10 years ago were hitting Wired magazine’s online version, HotWired, pretty heavy (I rarely did, but looked at it occasionally). That site ceased long ago and has been supplanted by such as Digg.com and Slashdot.com.
Of course, we can’t forget good ole porn. I’m not above admitting using Persian Kitty, which has been called the “Yahoo of Porn” to navigate through all the salacious goodness. It went online way back in 1994 and even though I haven’t surfed it in years, it’s still going strong. This Metroactive.com article provides an interesting short history of cyberporn sites like Persian Kitty and their impact on internet usage and economics.
In researching this piece I asked the question: What are the oldest web sites? (And by “research” I mean typing a few words into Google of course). Good ole Digg.com gives us the answer with this posted article on the 100 Oldest Currently Registered .Com Domains (also here at Jottings.com). The list is pretty boring—just a bunch of tech and telecom companies, naturally—but interestingly most of these sites still seem to be going in one form or another. The very oldest, Symbolics.com, which registered way back on March 15, 1985, still has a rudimentary site running.
If you want to see what some websites once looked like (and you know the URL of same), you can get a peek at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
Looking back at some of these old sites evokes the old nostalgia pangs as well as admiration at the lovely simplicity of the look of the web in its fledgling early days of graphical browsing prior to the dot.com bust.
If you have any old websites you are still using after 10 years, send ’em along and share them in the comments.