There’s something fascinating about looking back at technology from 20 years ago. Whether it’s revisiting Windows 95, seeing how little OS X user interface has changed since the turn of the millennium, or watching today’s teenagers react with horror when they’re presented with gadgets that were cutting edge in our own youths.
One of the most interesting areas – and one that as a site we’ve not spent too much time looking back at – are websites from yesteryear that can still be accessed today.
We’re talking about sites that came before the advent of super-slick graphics and Web 2.0, sites that remind you just how far we’ve come in both design and functionality.
So, without further ado, here are nine sites that will either make you all dewy-eyed or jump for joy, depending on your opinions:
1. Space Jam
We’ve all seen the movie, right? It’s the highest-grossing basketball film of all-time. It sees NBA legend Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes ensemble join forces to overcome a team of baddies and win their freedom.
Amazingly, the original Warner Brothers site is still live. The homepage is basic without being absolutely awful, but the real horror lies behind some of those links. Whoever thought that red Times New Roman font on a starry background was a good design decision should be fired.
Though, to be fair, they’re probably long-since retired.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be familiar with the O.J. Simpson saga. In short, Simpson was one of the best NFL players of his generation in the 1970s but found infamy in 1994 when he was tried, and controversially acquitted, for murder.
If you want to revisit the details of what has been dubbed the “most publicized criminal trial in American history”, why not skip Wikipedia and head straight to CNN’s page dedicated to the events?
It’s seriously lacking from a graphical standpoint, but the depth of information is impressive – proving that even back in the Internet’s infancy the potential was already there for it to become the information powerhouse that we enjoy today.
The 2016 US presidential election is nearing its climax. As is the way these days, it’s been characterized by slick social media campaigns, paid-for comments on sites like Reddit, and endless adverts on webpages.
Back in 1996, the presidential hopefuls were just latching on to the power of the web as a campaign tool.
The campaign pitted incumbent Bill Clinton against Republican challenger Bob Dole. Incredibly, Dole’s site is still there for you to enjoy.
To be fair, it’s actually not bad for its time – though the presence of his wife’s cookie recipe leaves us scratching our heads.
Trump biscuits, anyone…?
No, not the site for the recently-released Jurassic World, but for the original’s 1997 sequel.
It was created as a viral marketing site. It was so long ago, we’re not sure how successful it was, but we do know that if our teenage eyes had discovered this at the time, they’d have loved it.
It features dinosaur profiles, fake memos on dot-matrix printer paper, and – wait for it – a GIF-powered splash page. Who knew back then that GIFs would still be popular on the web 20 years later?!
Newsflash – there was an Internet before Google. Yes, we know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true, we promise.
Aliweb has a strong claim for being the first true search engine we saw come online. There were indexers, but this was the first time users could submit the locations of their sites, add user-written page descriptions, and add keywords.
Clearly, it’s a far cry from either Google Search or Bing, but for a website that’s been live since 1993, it stacks up pretty well.
Was this the world’s first online travel site? Very possibly, though it has no resemblance to modern offerings like TripAdvisor or AirBnB.
It’s probably the worst site on this list for graphics and layout, but the information on the site is largely good, with articles and reviews for most of the world’s countries as well as some “in-focus” locations in the United States and Mexico.
Still, it’s not hard to see why travel agents were still so popular back then.
With online dating and virtual relationships, this film was arguably a decade ahead of its time. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and sees their two characters begin a web-based romance without realizing they are also business rivals. Magical.
The site is still online, and it’s just as
bad incredible as the movie. You can meet the characters, enjoy the sounds of New York, and review some ASCII art – if you really want to.
The Three Rivers Stadium used to be home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. We say “used to”, because it was flattened in the year 2000 as the two clubs moved to new homes.
That doesn’t stop the website living on as a memorial, however. It’s even still got directions to the former site (sans Google Maps!). Just don’t buy any tickets from their events section, we’ve got a suspicion that you’ll be wasting your money…
We finish with the longest running webcam in existence. According to the developers, FogCam has been pointing out over a courtyard at San Francisco State University since 1994 having begun life as a student project. Given its age, it only updates every 20 seconds.
This is to Periscope what Aliweb is to Google Search – a precursor to what would lie ahead as the Internet’s technology and reach grew insatiably.
What Will the Internet Be Like in 20 Years?
It’s easy to look back at these sites and laugh, but at the time, they were the best the Internet had to offer.
It’s similar to when you compare a modern PlayStation’s graphics to the original PS1 – there is no contest, but it’s easy to forget just how revolutionary the original Sony product was.
So that leads us to wonder, what will the web be like in another 20 years? One thing is certain – the pages we now use every day will look old-fashioned, dated, and vaguely ridiculous.
We’d love your thoughts about the future or some of your own blasts from the past. Are there any ancient sites you remember that still exist today? As always, you can get in touch via the comments section below.