Go Back In Time: How 10 Big Websites Looked 15 Years Ago

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how websites used to lookThe year was 1997. Apple was a struggling computer company, AOL was a booming Internet service provider, Microsoft was on the verge of releasing Windows 98, and the Web was a very different place. Through the magic of the Wayback Machine, we can travel back in time and revisit the past.

Take a walk down memory lane with us as we journey back in time and take a look at what the Web used to be. If you were there at the time, you’ll feel nostalgia – if not, you might be surprised just how far we’ve come. Feel free to follow the links and do your own exploring, even revisit your own old haunts and marvel at how dated they look.

Apple

Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, was a struggling computer company back in the ‘90s. Apple’s website from 1997 seems like it’s about a completely different company from the Apple we know today. But even back then, Apple was pushing mobile devices – the eMate 300 in this case, which used Apple’s Newton platform. (It was a flop.)

how websites used to look

Google

Google didn’t even have a website in 1997, so I’m cheating a bit here by showing you the page from 1998. The iconic, minimalistic design is present here. Here’s a little-known fact: the only reason Google started with such a simple design is because they didn’t have a webmaster or anyone that knew HTML.

how websites used to look like

Yahoo

1997 was the pre-Google era, so people used other search engines – like Yahoo. Yahoo was a pretty basic search engine and directory back then, nothing like the jam-packed front page it would become. But then, Yahoo just couldn’t be cluttered back then. It would have taken too long to download over those old dial-up modems.

how websites used to look like

Microsoft

Microsoft was working on Windows 98 at the time, and their “Where do you want to go today?” slogan featured prominently on their website. The top headline – “Internet Explorer 4.0 Debuts to Critics’ Applause” – seems hilarious in retrospect, with Internet Explorer ultimately becoming a drag on the Internet. At the time, Microsoft was actually trying – and they would keep developing IE until they released version 6, after which they stopped development, leaving the Web to stagnate.

how websites used to look like

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Amazon

I’m going to cheat again because the Wayback Machine doesn’t have any snapshots of Amazon.com from 1997, so here’s a screenshot from 1999. The old Amazon actually looks surprisingly modern. Of course, a big part of this is because Amazon’s website had changed so little until the recent redesign.

website archive screenshots

AOL

AOL’s website really is a blast from the past. The front page advertises the beta release of AOL Instant Messenger, which ultimately became very popular. It even offers a free AOL trial, which brought many people online for the first time.

website archive screenshots

GeoCities

If you were around in the ‘90s, I’m sure you remember GeoCities. Instead of creating blogs, people created their own personal websites – and they usually looked horrible. GeoCities was shut down in 2009, but it faded away and died many years before.

website archive screenshots

The New York Times

The New York Times shows us what a newspaper website used to be like. The website attempts to bring the familiar newspaper-style layout to a browser – luckily, newspaper websites have advanced since then. It’s also amusing to see that the early versions of Internet Explorer were considered “complex” in their time.

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AltaVista

If you weren’t using Yahoo, there’s a good chance you were using AltaVista. AltaVista now just redirects to Yahoo’s search results, and Yahoo is just a frontend to Microsoft’s Bing.

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The White House

The White House didn’t have a shiny website back then – the website’s front page was the “White House Virtual Library.” It offered the ability to browse and search a variety of documents. No splashy front page with the latest news and high-resolution images of the president here, just a glorified search engine with a background that made the content harder to read.

how websites used to look

One day, someone will write about how ancient the Web looked back in 2012 and marvel at how backwards we were.

Were you online in 1997? Do you have any other interesting old websites to share? Leave a comment and let us know.

Image Credit: Old Computer via Shutterstock

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Comments (120)
  • Adrian Rea

    Yup, some of us knew it with Netscape and all. If we only knew how it would turn out!

  • Joe G

    Sooner or later, all the iPhones and Droids and other phones like will become dinosaurs, just like car phones. One of these days I’m just going to decide to stop upgrading my technology, and will become one of those who say “How do you use this transporter? I wish I could use my car.”

    • Chris Hoffman

      Give it 10 years and we may all be using augmented-reality glasses. Another 10 and we may have neural interfaces!

      Well, I can dream.

  • Charlie

    Okay, just wondering where are the good old days. You know the black screens or least we should forget the green screens!

    • Chris Hoffman

      That takes me even further back! I remember when I was a kid, the first computers I used used DOS and Windows wasn’t even a thing yet. You had to know the commands to type in to use it.

  • moto_modx

    Good article, I first accessed internet for one hour in 1996. when i was 13, later in 1998 onwards I started using it by visiting to my uncle’s office frequently. I remember some of these pages. I started using altavista in 2000, and indiatimes was also a favorite destination. memories refreshed.

    • Chris Hoffman

      Glad I could help! This really took me back, too — back to when I was a kid with an AOL disc.

  • Thegreatvinay

    not only the pages internet speed in india too should evolve. still using 512Kbps speed :'(

    • Chris Hoffman

      Ouch, well.. at least that’s faster than dial-up! That’s something. Man, dial-up was slow even in its day…

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.